Saturday, 26 September 2009

Muffin Mysteries

About nine years ago, I got an email from an old school friend. It only said one thing, which was something like:
"How do you make muffins do the spilling-over-the-top thing?"

I still don't know. Any cupcakes I make are flat at the top. I did once get the desired effect when I used bicarbonate of soda instead of baking powder. They looked fantastic but tasted disgusting. I've just looked on the internet and one suggestion is to use more baking powder. I might try that next time.

My next question is: how do you keep chocolate chips on the top from burning? And how do you help chocolate chunks which are slightly cuboid keep their shape?

Today I made some chocolate fairy cakes which had chocolate chips and a bit of a gooey toffee centre. I was inspired by a muffin I bought in a theatre cafe on Thursday evening. It was chocolate batter with chocolate chips and had little squidges of toffee inside. It was lovely.

I did buy milk chocolate to break into bits and pop into the cake mix, but then I was struck with an idea which would use up some leftovers, thus creating more space in the fridge.
I had some chocolate sauce in the fridge which had been made for the ice-cream cake I made recently. The cake had long since gone, and I was left with the chocolate sauce made of chocolate and double cream which, as you might expect, had the hardness of truffles. I chopped it up into little chunks and shoved bits into the cake mix. I half-filled the cake cases, then dribbled in some toffee sauce which I had also made to accompany the long-gone ice-cream cake. I made sure the toffee got covered with cake mix.

I got a pretty good result. The toffee sauce didn't go hard (good). The exposed bits of chocolate chunk did not burn (good) but spread a little and did not keep their shape (disappointing).

They taste very nice, by the way, but I would still like your hints for spilling-over-the-top chunky choc chip muffin success.

Thursday, 17 September 2009


I made some out of dried apricots. It's all too easy to make, and it's instant pizazz for your cheese sandwich or a Christmas present.

1) Soak some dried apricots, and maybe one sundried tomato for every twenty apricots in water for 24 hours
2) Drain excess liquid and chop the fruit into small chunks
3) Add cider vinegar, a little salt and pepper, powdered mace, powdered cinnamon, powdered clove and powdered allspice (pimento). If you added too much vinegar or salt, you might want to redress this with some sugar.
4) Bottle it in a sterilised jar. I used a small stainless steel tin with a lid, as one can often find in South Asian households as a more robust alternative to Tupperware. I have kept it in the fridge.

I would experiment with other dried fruit which is knocking about in your cupboard not doing anything.

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Food in the movies

Inspired by the insignificant quotation from Cry Baby in last night's entry, I would like to compile a list of quotations from films about food. I'm not sure how far I'll get, but suggestions would be very welcome.

Tuesday, 15 September 2009


I think you should know the score by now, if you see an entry about supper here, it's not likely to have photographs because hungry stomach and greedy mouth work faster than camera finger.

I made a shoddy Potato Gratin ("We're having your favorite, Wanda honey, Potatoes au Gratin!" "Mmmmmm!") to use up a splash of cream I had. At least, I sliced potatoes thinly, added some marrow slices, oil, salt, pepper rosemary, cream, slices of garlic between layers, sprinkles some dry uncooked polenta grain on it because I couldn't be bothered looking for the semolina. Covered casserole dish in tin foil, whacked the heat up to Gas Mark 9 for an hour. Left the foil off for the last ten minutes and added oak-smoked Lancashire to bubble on the top.

I also made a mash out of some unknown squash. It was mottled green and cream on the outside and I feared it would taste watery and boring but it was a bit like butternut squash. I roasted it with olive oil, paprika and cumin before blitzing with a bit of fresh ginger root.

Finally, a pea and mint puree, as I was still feeling inspired by the meal I was taken out for and the end of last month. Frozen peas, fresh finely chopped mint leaves, an onion I'd roasted in its skin while the oven was on, it all got the blitz treatment. Pepper, a squeeze of lime but no salt, which is strange for a sodium chloride fiend like me.

And that's what you can end up eating if you're not a house of flesh-eaters. I'm kind of glad I didn't take any photos because the presentation of the food was really poor. I rather fancied dribbling the puree artfully onto mine and my dining mates' plates, but in the end reality overpowered and my small aesthetic self was out for the count.

Thursday, 10 September 2009

Cake-o-rama / a tardy rice dream

I have recently made two of these thingummies. Here is a fine coconut cake:

The cake itself was a very basic cake sponge with added desiccated coconut. What really makes it is the frosting, an indulgent mix of cream cheese, icing sugar, more desiccated coconut, a wee bit of fat and do you know what the magic ingredient is? The real kick? It's a dash of zingy lemon juice which cuts through the sweet fat rather nicely.

This is very late, but here are my pretty spring rolls from my rice paper / homemade seitan phase. Which may return. I don't know yet. The colour you see in the rolls is provided by nasturtium flowers and leaves, of which there was a sizeable glut last month.

The second cake, in case you were wondering, is lying dormant in a dark very cool place, waiting to be decorated. Picture soon.

And here it is:

I saw it once on a Nigella Lawson cookery programme, got very excited by the idea and thought that would be a good dessert for a special occasion. One makes it by mixing crushed biscuit, crushed cinder toffee, honey roast peanuts and chocolate / peanut butter chips with ice cream and freezing it in a spring form cake tin lined with clingfilm. You take it out, serve with warm chocolate sauce, and warm butterscotch sauce and what do you know? It's not unlike eating an ice-cream Snickers. I can't believe I made this for someone's birthday. The only thing I am proud of is that I honey roasted my own peanuts and made my own chocolate / peanut swirled chips because I couldn't find any.

I could probably make a much better ice cream cake, less chaotic, more structured and meaningful. You watch this space.