Apple Cinnamon Donut Muffins

The drop in temperature recently has left me with some carb cravings that can’t be ignored. I have honestly tried but it just makes me miserable so hey! This evening I was in desperate need of a quick fix after a busy day and also wanted to use up some apple sauce I’d made with cider at the weekend. Inspiration hit and these lovelies were hot from the oven within half an hour.

I mixed 300g self raising flour with 150g sugar and half a teaspoon of cinnamon in a bowl. Then whisked 50g melted butter with an egg and 250mls soya milk (dairy would be fine) thickened for five minutes with half a teaspoon of lemon juice. Then very lightly mixed the wet and dry ingredients together.

Half the batter went in the muffin tins (I’ve got medium sized silicon jobs, you may need to grease trays or use paper inserts) then a teaspoon of the apple sauce went in each heap of mixture, followed by the rest of the batter before baking in a preheated 200c oven for 20 minutes.

Once they were golden and crispy on top they just needed the tops brushing with melted butter and sprinkling with a mixture of castor sugar and cinnamon. Then we just had to restrain ourselves from not eating them so fast we burned our tongues. Ok – I failed at this, but the recipe was a success so I still win!

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Custardy Pumpkin Pie

A few weeks ago a cardboard box arrived on my doorstep filled with red, orange and green pumpkins from those lovely people at Riverford. Since then we’ve had pumpkin risotto, pumpkin roasted with peppers, chillies and sausages; pumpkin muffins and, as of yesterday, pumpkin pie!

Over the last few years I’ve tried several recipes, some ok, and some… well, some dire. But this one from Keith Abel’s Cooking Outside the Box ticked all the boxes. Crisp pastry and a light, fluffy, custardy filling. I loved it, my family thought it was amazing; a Canadian friend proclaimed that it reminded him of home.

We polished off the remnants today, with torrential rain outside (the dregs of St Jude’s transatlantic storm) and steaming mugs of Earl Grey inside. Tomorrow? I think I’m going to have to make another.

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Green Tomato and Orange Habanero Chutney.

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When a good friend of mine was left with nearly a kilo of green tomatoes and dozens of chillies left on his plants as the weather turned cold last week I put in a request for them, remembering with crystal clarity a recipe for green tomato chutney in one of my 100 plus recipe books. I then spent several minutes throwing cookery books around in irritation; my search for said recipe was entirely fruitless. However I did find Riverford’s Green Tomato Chutney recipe online which was perfect as I had all the ingredients already in stock!

As I’m all for the easy route I did actually chuck everything in a pan straight away and simmer it for a couple of hours. I also added some chopped, dried dates and upped the quantity of cooking apple towards the end purely because it was still all a bit liquid. In addition, because I’d used dark muscovado sugar it needed a bit more than the 200g in the recipe for sweetness.

My crowning culinary glory was that, for the first time ever, I didn’t rub chilli juice in my eyes (orange habs are really, really hot!) But, at the end of two hours it was pretty gratifying to be able to spoon this rich, brown, spicy and incredibly flavoursome preserve into my sterilised Kilner jars (one for me, one for my chilli loving friend.) Apparently the chutney needs to be left for at least six weeks for the flavour to develop but I tried some with bread and cheese and it already tastes pretty darn fine. Now I just need to hide the jars to keep them out of temptation’s way…

Apple Crumble

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Along with caramelised roast pumpkins; crisp, foggy mornings and that first smell of woodsmoke, cooking apples signal Autumn proper for me. Making apple sauce is child’s play. Roughly chopped and simmered down with a spot of butter, sugar and water and maybe a pinch or two of cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg or cloves; the transformation from crunch to mush is impressive. The hardest decision is then whether to stir your sauce into cake, serve it up with roast pork, stir into breakfast yoghurt or make a time honoured, quintessentially British comfort pudding: apple crumble.

I’m afraid I can’t give you quantities for a crumble. I make it differently every time, only half relying on any number of recipes at the start of each autumn to remind myself what I’m doing. I stew apples with butter and sugar and maybe stir in fresh blackberries or frozen blueberries if I’ve got any. Meanwhile I ring the changes in the basic topping (butter, flour and sugar) with oats, spices and/or nuts.

I winged the custard today too with equal measures of full fat milk and double cream gently warmed, then a paste of cornflour, egg yolk, sugar and vanilla whisked before heating to just below the boil. Not gonna lie. It was my best yet. I’m looking forward to the leftovers once my daughters have gone to bed!

Mocha Muffins

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I have two types of cake I can knock up in a hurry, without really thinking about it, and with a 99% chance of the right ingredients already residing in my kitchen cupboard. The first is a tray of brownies, the second is a batch of muffins. Both are adaptable, can be on the table in about forty minutes and, above all, are guaranteed crowd pleasers. I’ve already “done” brownies this week so when my gorgeous sister-in-law offered to pop by this afternoon with my baby nephew I decided to go the muffin route. Half an hour later the house was filled with the fragrance of coffee and chocolate; which is always a Good Thing!

Should you require a “little something” at short notice, you could do worse than these babies. They are adapted from a recipe of Susannah Blake’s in Muffin Magic. Please note that you can substitute gluten-free flour and/or non-dairy milk without any problems, I’ve done both.

In a big bowl mix 300g self-raising flour, 120g caster sugar, two teaspoons each of cocoa powder and instant espresso powder and 50g chopped dark chocolate.

In a jug beat 200ml milk, two tablespoons yoghurt, 1 egg and 85g melted butter; and then pour into the bowl of dry ingredients. Lightly and barely mix. If you under-combine with streaks of flour mixture still present you’ll get lovely light muffins. If you mix thoroughly, as you would a cake batter, your muffins will be rubbery. You don’t want that!

Spoon the mixture into twelve medium sized muffin moulds (I have two six-hole, silicon muffin trays. If you aren’t using silicon you’ll need to line with paper cases) and pop into a preheated 200C oven for twenty minutes.

Plump the cushions, hide that pile of paperwork, stick the kettle on and then hope your guests arrive before the muffins go cold. If they do cool too much remove from the tins/trays and stick in a hot oven for about three minutes. IF there’s any left you can do this for breakfast the next morning too, but don’t count on it…

Wednesday Night Fridge Clear Out.

Every Thursday morning one of our lovely Riverford delivery ladies lugs a huge box of organic, seasonal and largely local vegetables up to our doorstep. Every Thursday morning I am torn between excitement at the huge range of meal possibilities and tiredness at the thought of where the hell I’m going to store it all; our fridge is tiny. So Wednesday evening heralds a fridge clear out and Wednesday supper is always a witches brew of whatever is left over…

Tonight I marinaded still frozen salmon in soy sauce, brown sugar and sesame oil for half an hour before sprinkling it with sesame seeds and sticking it for a while in a medium hot oven.

Once it was nearly cooked and family members were starting to mill around expectantly I fried up spring onions, garlic, a chilli, a handful of coriander, a load of curly kale and a good pinch of sprouted alfalfa. Threw soy sauce, a pinch of brown sugar and some star anise into chicken stock and finally chucked soba noodles into boiling water for five minutes. From there it was just a quick assembly job.

Half an hour later and everyone has broth splattered down their fronts and warm bellies (I could have used a little less chilli). With a bit of re-jigging I should have just enough space for tomorrow’s veg!

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