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Thursday, 22 October 2020

Beetroot, Bacon & Cheddar Rolls

Beetroot, Bacon & Cheddar Rolls (makes 12)

You can use a basic white bread mix for this or make your own bread in a bread machine or by hand.

You will also need 2-3 cooked beetroot, weighing about 150g, peeled and cut into small cubes
100g grated Cheddar
3-4 rashers of crispy streaky bacon, weighing about 40g, cut into small pieces

Once the bread dough is made preheat the oven to 200°C and grease a muffin tin well. then roll the dough out into a rough rectangle. Scatter over half the cheese then the beetoot and bacon, then the other half of the cheese. Tightly roll up the bread dough along the longest edge then cut into 12 pieces. Place each piece, cut side up, into the holes in the muffin tin then cover and leave to rise for half an hour. Once risen, bake for 30 minutes. Serve warm.

Pear Roulade

It has been so delight this year to have an abundant supply of my own pears. My pear tree is a "twin" tree, with two varieties grafted to a single trunk. One half is William and the other is Conference. The William ripened first and we enjoyed those for a few weeks before the Conference ripened. It was very considerate of the tree to drip feed pears to me in this fashion and I was able to process them at a reasonable rate which meant that hardly any went to waste.

Pears are no where near as verstile as apples but I have enjoyed exploring different ways of using them this year and I have created a number of different desserts with them. I think one of my favourites has got to be the pear roulade that I made as it looked impressive and tasted delicate and luxurious. It had a variety of subtle, sweet flavours and a lovely pillowy soft texture. 

In my version, I used some of the pear caramel I made (see earlier blog post) but maple syrup works well too.

Pear Roulade

4 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
50g caster sugar
50g light brown sugar
100g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
3 ripe pears
1 lemon
250g mascapone
150g double creame
5 tbsp pear caramel (or maple syrup)

Heat the oven to 180°C and oil and line a swiss roll tin. Beat together the eggs, vanilla and sugars with an electric whisk for 5 minutes until thick and doubled in size. Sift in the flour, baking powder, cinnamon and pinch of salt and fold in. Pour the batter into the tin and bake for 10-15 minutes until springy. Roll up the cake, still in the lining paper whilst still warm and wrap it in a tea towel to hold its shape whilst it cools. In the meantime, peel and chop the pears and coat them in lemon juice then set them to drain in a sieve to remove excess moisture. Beat together the mascapone, cream and 3 tbsp of caramel. Unroll the cake and spread with the remaining caramel, followed by the mascapone mixture and then the pears the carefully roll up again. Sift over icing sugar to finish.

Hidden Veg Pork & Apple Burgers

It is quite a common idea to "hide" vegetables inside other food. Some might argue that I do it all the time when I make a courgette cake or stick pumpkin puree into something. But that isn't the same. No one eats carrot cake because it is the only way they can stomach carrots and they think it will add to their five-a-day! No, they eat carrot cake because it is delicious! And that's why I make cakes with vegetables in them. I'm upfront about it too - "Here, lovely children, eat this courgette muffin." 

When I don't think it is helpful to put vegetables within food is when it is "hidden". If you are blending carrot and courgette into your kids' pasta sauce or pizza topping and not telling them that's what you have done then it isn't helping them to learn that they like pasta sauce with added carrot and courgette. They won't realise that there is a way that they can enjoy those vegetables that in other forms they don't enjoy. So, ok, put it in their pasta sauce and don't tell them at first, but make sure that at some point, when they have clearly demonstrated that they like it, you do tell them. They need to learn to associate certain flavours with certain foods and then when they are an adult they will know that they actually like that food and not spend the rest of their lives thinking that they don't.

I was a fussy eater and looking back at my former self I am as baffled by my behaviour as I am by the behaviour of my eldest daughter. I mean, what did I think would happen if I just relaxed and tried the food?! And you know what, it still kind of persists into adulthood. If I get flecks of broccoli florets on my carrots, I will brush it off with a knife rather than shoving the lot into my mouth even though I know I will probably not even taste the broccoli! It is a mental battle against illogical thinking in many regards.

And now my eldest daughter is at that crossroads in her life where she appreciates she is now dipping her toe into adulthood and she doesn't want to look like an idiot in front of other people because she doesn't like certain foods. She is fully aware of the nutritional make-up of food and how to get a balanced diet and she WANTS to eat one, yet she still struggles to eat certain foods.

Yes, there are certain foods she still flatly refuses to eat but she if tells me that she'll eat mushrooms if they are chopped finely, then I will chop them finely. And if she will eat food that has grated carrot or courgette in it, fully aware of its presence, then I think that is ok too. These are the first steps towards less finely chopped food and food presented on its own, without having to be incorporated into other foods.

At the weekend I made us all some hidden veg pork and apple burgers. This was not because I wanted to be sneeky about it or feel triumphant should she eat her burger and unwittingly enjoy it. No, it was because I figured it would make the burger taste nicer whilst at the same time finding an agreeable way to boast the vegetable content of her diet. 

And you know what, they were really tasty burgers with a lovely moist texture so I think I shall be making these again in the future.

Hidden Veg Pork & Apple Burgers (makes 6-8)

1 small onion
1 clove garlic
2-3 mushrooms, depending on size
100g courgette (grated)
50g pumpkin puree (or grated carrot)
Italian season or other combination of dried herbs
75g Cheddar (grated)
5 tbsp breadcrumbs
400g minced pork
50-60g apple (grated)

Using a food processor, finely chop the onion, garlic and mushrooms then fry them with the courgette for 5 minutes until cooked and not too wet. Leave to cool. Add all the ingredients to a large bowl and stir very well, using your hands, until well combined. Weigh out 100-115g of mixture and press into a biscuit cutter to form patties. Chill for at least half an hour or freeze. To cook, fry on a medium heat for 7 or 8 minutes on each size. Serve in a burger bun with salad, sauces and relishes of your choosing.

Chunky Monkey Courgette Muffins

These fun named muffins are a joy to eat. And using 350g of courgette, they help to make a small dent in your courgette glut. With ripe bananas in there too, they can help deal with those things lurking in your fruit bowl as well!

Chunky Monkey Courgette Muffins (makes 12)

165g plain flour
75g wholemeal flour
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp mixed spice
Pinch of salt
2 ripe bananas - mashed
1 medium courgette (~350g), peeled, grated and squeezed to remove excess moisture
2 tbsp oil
75g honey
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 egg
90g chunky chocolate chips or pieces of broken chocolate bar

Preheat the oven to 180°C and line a muffin tin with 12 cases. Mix the dry ingredients in a large bowl then add the courgette and banana. Add the wet ingredients and stir into a batter (add a little milk if needed). Bake for 20-25 minutes.

Wednesday, 21 October 2020

Cheddar & Courgette Muffins

In addition to my youngest daughter wanting varied and interesting lunches during lockdown, there was a time when I struggled to find any flour available to buy, forcing me to rethink obvious lunch choices.

It is a funny thing really because I write blogs that include recipes to encourage people to get cooking from scratch and baking, however, I did find it frustrating when people who seldom baked suddenly decided now was the perfect time to take it up as a  new hobby. Fantastic... if only supply could keep up with it and there were enough ingredients to go round!

So for several weeks I eeked out the last of my bread flour, trying to find something other than bread (and pasta as that was also sold out) for lunch. I had hardly any plain flour left too so I was rationing that and trying to find new and inventive ways of making snacks and dessert. However, I was well stocked up on self-raising flour, having bought a 5 pack from Costco not long before COVID-19 reached the news.

One thing you can make with self-raising flour is muffins. I'd never really tried baking savoury muffins before because I couldn't really understand when you would eat them. I mean, they aren't dessert and not really what I would be looking for in a snack either. And why would you eat them for lunch when you could make something with bread. 

Well, now bread was off the menu it seemed like the perfect time to give savoury muffins a go. It being spring at this point, what we had to hand was plenty of leeks so our first batch was leek and Cheddar muffins. My youngest and I enjoyed them immensely, especially served with some coleslaw and crisps on the side. My eldest is suspicious of anything containing leek so opted out.

As the season moved into summer and the crops from the allotment changed and flour came back into stock, we gave Cheddar and courgette muffins a go. Both daughters are very much used to eating food with courgette grated into it so they know well that it is often completely undetectable so they both tucked into these. As they also freeze well, there are a handy thing to make for lunch and to have in stock for a packed lunch on days when the bread runs out or is unexpectedly mouldy.

Cheddar & Courgette Muffins (makes 6)

1 courgette, peeled and grated
75g plain flour
50g wholemeal flour
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp smoked paprika
1 egg plus a dash of milk
125ml double cream
2 1/2 tbsp olive oil
1 small carrot (45g), peeled and grated
70g Cheddar, grated

Preheat oven to 200°C and put 6 cases in a muffin tin. Put the dry ingredients in a bowl with some salt and pepper. Put the egg, milk, cream and olive oil into a jug and beat. Squeeze the excess water out of the courgette then combine all the ingredients. Spoon into the muffin cases and bake for 25 minutes. 

Courgette Slice

My youngest daughter is a huge fan of food in general and will eat most things, which is a wonderful way to be. And for years she has enjoyed hot meals at school. However, when lockdown happened in March she was suddenly faced with being at home every day for the next six months. Although I work from home and have a whole kitchen at my disposal at lunchtime, I confess that often I will make a simple sandwich and eat it at my desk, whilst catching up on emails or social media. However, my daughter was adament that dull sandwiches would not be acceptable for the next six months.

As such, I started to think creatively about lunch and it proved to be a fantastic opportunity. It turned out my lack of enthusiasm for lunch was mainly due to making it only for myself. And lunch presented itself as an opportunity to try out something I wouldn't want to inflict on my husband or picky eldest daughter at dinner time. 

So we started making savoury muffins, pies, tarts, different types of bread, pasta, noodle and rice dishes and elaborate salads.

This proved to be particularly useful during the summer months when we had an abundance of food coming off the allotment and we could try out new and inventive ways of eating them. Yes, I think we may have eaten courgette in one form or another for lunch and possibly also for dinner every day for a fortnight!

Anyway, here's a recipe for Courgette Slice. Not sure how to explain what this is but it is kind of like a cross between an omelette, a souffle and a crustless quiche. It seems to open itself up to lots of creative ideas and different ingredients should be fancy tweeking it for your own tastes.

Courgette Slice

1/2 cup of grated mature Cheddar
180g grated courgette 
1 small onion, finely chopped
1/4 cup olive oil
3 eggs, beaten
120g self-raising flour
Salt and pepper
Optional - bacon, red pepper, mushroom

Preheat the oven to 180°C and grease and line a flan dish. Gently fry the onion (and other ingredients if using). In a bowl, mix together the fried ingredients, courgette, cheese and oil. Fold in the eggs then the flour and seasoning. Bake for 20-30 minutes, until golden and set. Serve hot. Leftovers can be eaten cold if preferred or reheated.

Courgette Pakora

Having mused in my previous blog about the flavours we tend to eat as a family, another one that we tend not to eat is curry. I do kind of wish I liked curry because it seems like such a useful dish to throw together and it can clearly use so many different ingredients. It seems like a great way to use up gluts of all kinds of surplus vegetables too and it strikes me that is a cheap way to feed a crowd. But alas, I don't like spicy food much and really can't stomach chilli. Fortunately, my husband is the same so at least we don't have to worry about being incompatible in that regard. 

I do fear, however, that I may be sheltering my girls from curry and it could be something they would enjoy given the opportunity. And, let's face it, what's the chances of them getting through life without someone suggesting they all go out for a curry?! 

I remember the first time that happened to me so off I dutifully went and was persuaded that a chicken korma would be tolerable. Well, it wasn't and I found myself nibbling on popadoms and wishing the night was over. It was then over 20 years before someone else invited me out for a curry so off I went again and this time found the chicken korma a little more tolerable and actually actively enjoyed the onion bhaji starter.

As it happens, we do occasionally buy a packet of "Indian snacks" from the supermarket because my husband and I do quite like an onion bhaji and even a samosa or two if not overly heavy on the chilli. It turns out neither of our girls much care of these and my youngest absolutely hates them - or anything else with coriander in for that matter. The eldest has found she likes Japanese curry and is quite partial to katsu curry but she's not keen on the Indian combination of spices. I don't know whether I should be congratulating myself for rightly avoiding these foods all their lives or wondering if it is because I have that they don't like them.

Anyway, the result is we don't eat curry ever as a family but I do occasionally make a bhaji or pakora to offer as a side dish should anyone fancy giving them ago. And during the summer months, the vegetable of choice for a pakora is courgette.

Courgette Pakora (makes around 12)

1 small courgette, grated then squeezed to remove excess moisture
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 tsp curry powder
1/2 tsp salt
50g plain or gram flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
Chilled fizzy water

Put all the ingredients in a bowl, adding just enough fizzy water to make a thick, coating batter. Heat some oil in a small pan then deep-fry small balls of the batter, 3 or 4 at a time, until they float and are golden brown. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on kitchen paper before serving.