Sunday, 29 July 2012

Lovely Lychees

I have a feeling that lychees are the Marmite of the fruit world - you either love them or are completely freaked out by their slimy eye-ball-ish texture. With that introduction you might think I'm in the latter camp, but no, I'm very much a lychee lover!

I remember getting them occasionally as a kid - which was really exciting, bearing in mind that this was the 80s in rural Scotland and supermarkets weren't quite as exotically stocked.

Turns out ASDA in Leith in 2012 still isn't, however it does sell fizzy lychee flavour juice (why doesn't that surprise me!), which formed the starting point for these cupcakes.

They smelt fabulously tropical whilst baking, but when tried one disappointingly just tasted mainly of cake, whilst taunting me with their lychee aroma. So to spite them, I decided to drown them in fresh strawberry icing - take that plain cakes!

The end result was pretty tasty - fluffy little tropical scented cupcakes with a sweet berry icing. I'm guessing you could substitute pretty much whichever fizzy juice took your fancy, so there's plenty of scope for experimenting with this recipe.

Lychee Cupcakes with Strawberry Icing (makes 10-12 small cupcakes)

  • 1/4 cup margarine (I used dairy free)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup Self Raising flour
  • 1/4 cup plus a splash of fizzy lychee juice
  • 2 tbsp strawberry compote, (made by lightly stewing fresh strawberries with a little icing sugar and a splash of lemon)
  • Icing sugar - start with 1/2 cup and be prepare to add more

Line a cupcake tin with paper cases and preheat the oven to 180C (160C fan).
Zap the margarine in the microwave until very very soft (almost melted but not quite) then beat it into the sugar.
Add the egg and beat again, then fold in the flour.
Lastly add the fizzy lychee juice and mix briefly until combined, then spoon into the prepared tin.
Bake for 15-20mins until risen and golden then cool on a wire rack.

Whilst the cakes are cooling, mash the compote well with a fork to break down the pieces of strawberry.

Sieve in 1/2 cup icing sugar and mix to a smooth paste. Add more icing sugar or compote as required until you reach your chosen icing consistency.

Saturday, 28 July 2012

Daring Bakers' July 2012 Challenge: Going Crackers!

Apologies to the Daring Bakers... I'm a day late in posting this as I got a little distracted by the Olympic opening ceremony last night. I wasn't planning on watching it, then logged in to Facebook and saw lots of peoples' status updates along the lines of "OMG The Queen". Being prone to pessimism, I immediately thought that with some monumentally bad timing, she had taken ill, or worse, keeled over and died. So I quickly flicked over to the BBC news and instead discovered that she was alive and well, and all the excitement was over her appearance with Mr 007 Bond himself in a film as part of the Olympic opening ceremony, and so I was duly sucked in!

Excuses over - back to the baking...

Our July 2012 Daring Bakers' Host was Dana McFarland and she challenged us to make homemade crackers! Dana showed us some techniques for making crackers and encouraged to use our creativity to make each cracker our own by using ingredients we love.

Oatcakes a la Mini-M
This was Mini-M's first Daring Bakers' challenge participation - aged not quite two!

We went with making some traditional Scottish oatcakes, the native crackers to our part of the world. They're quick, easy and cheap. Oh and as Mini-M quickly discovered, the dough is lots of fun to play with - like bake-able, edible play dough.

Scottish Oatcakes (makes 20 or so depending on size)

  • 250g oatmeal (mine was medium cut)
  • 170ml boiling water
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • Pinch salt
  • Pinch bicarbonate of soda

Preheat the oven to 180C (160C fan).
Weigh out the oatmeal into a mixing bowl, add the salt and bicarb and give a quick mix.
Then add the oil and freshly boiled water and mix well until combined. It will probably seem a bit too wet at this point, but don't add any more oatmeal just yet.
Let the mixture sit for 15 minutes for the oatmeal to soak up the water.
After 15 mins, work in a little more oatmeal or a tbsp more water if needed to get a firm but workable consistency.
Sprinkle a little more oatmeal onto the worktop, then roll out to about 0.5cm thick - or even thinner and cut out. Or if you want to get a little more squishy with the dough like Mini-M did, take heaped tsps, roll into marble sized balls and squash flat - much more fun!
Put onto lightly greased baking trays, and bake for about 15-20 mins until crisp.
Because there's no sugar and so little fats in them they don't really change colour, so don't try to cook until golden!

Implement selection...
...I'll have them all!
Cutters at the ready
Pat pat pat
Rolling out

Monday, 23 July 2012

Secret Ingredient Swap Roundup

Happy birthday to me, happy birthday to me, happy birthday to me (and Mini-M yesterday!) happy birthday to me!

Yes, another year older and this year a number that I'm not too happy with. But outwith my control, so back in June I decided to build in some birthday distraction, figuring that otherwise I might sit and have a little mope post-Mini-M's bed time, about how old I am getting! I arranged a surprise ingredient swap, which saw bloggers and tweeters from around the UK - and indeed the other side of the world, sending their swap partners a little package of lovely ingredients, which they then had to use to bake something delicious.

Well, it has worked - Mini-M's now in bed, and instead of moping, I'm blogging about cake! That seems like a suitably celebratory activity (given that eating cake has already been accomplished earlier in the day).

So in no particular order...

The more than occasional baker was sent some popping corn, and made these "Christmassy Popcorn Rocks" which look delicious at any time of year to me. There's even a video of the popcorn popping which has reminded me of how much fun it is to make - thanks Ros!

Next up Baking in Franglais was sent some cinnamon chocolate, crystallised rose petals a miniature love heart sweets, which she combined to make these gorgeous Chocolate Cupcakes. Not only that but the ingredients went on holiday to France with Jean, and she baked them there - that's dedication to cake baking!

Lou from Please Do Not Feed The Animals was sent not one but three bottles of flavouring essence - pear, pineapple and rose to be precise. She got very busy and whipped up three different flavours of cupcakes, complete with appropriately flavoured icings. They all look fantastic, particularly the pina-colada-esque pineapple and coconut ones, which are like a little ray of sunshine against yet another rainy day!

Next it's the turn of Mr E, my other (better?!) half who has recently started his own food blog - Hell Yeah Four Ingredient Recipes. He was sent a treasure chest of goodies from Oz, some of which have been munched, some which will no doubt form the basis of future creations, and some delicious macadamia nuts which he used to make Four Ingredient Birthday Cake. It is hands down the nicest cake he's ever made me - I am a convert to four ingredient chocolate cake!

Moving on to @ClaireHitchen who was sent some delicious honey. She made this fantastic Banana and Honey Bread. Since both banana bread and honey bread are fantastic in their own right, I'm imagining great things about them being combined! It looks like it's perfect tear-apart sharing bread too - the best sort!

We're going global next, with The Teensy, Tiny, Insignificant Details, who was sent some Scottish tablet and whisky. She went on a recipe invention journey, tinkering here and there as she went and the end result was these impressive looking Scottish Tablet Cupcakes with Whisky Icing. They are even getting into the Scottish spirit and have tartan cases!

Back to the UK again, and Dom at Belleau Kitchen was sent some Chocolate Tree 64% chocolate. He combined it with a surfeit of egg-whites after a mayonnaise making spree to come up with these delicious looking Coffee and Chocolate Meringues. They look the perfect combination of crunchy outer and pillowy inner. Perhaps I'll have to venture into mayonnaise making, as I'm the opposite way around and always seem to have egg yolks left over from meringues!

The Cupcake Architect received some orange blossom water and orange white chocolate which she used to create these luscious looking Orange Blossom and Orange Ganache Cupcakes. They sound like  perfect portions of sweet sophistication, and I'm betting scraping the bowl out after making the ganache was no hardship either ;o)

And last but not least, I was sent some dark chocolate and fresh chillies (which survived their postal journey surprisingly well, not least because they spent 2 days at the delivery office before I could pick them up!). I have to confess to not having posted my challenge yet, but I have made two delicious recipes. Chocolate Chili Raspberry Brownies, the photos of which have yet to make the jump from camera to laptop, and Chili Coconut Chocolate Torte. Both will feature in a blog post in the imminent future (i.e. tomorrow!).

A HUGE thank you all for taking part in the swap. For your kind words and birthday wishes, and the evening of distraction you have provided whilst I have written this post! Who knows, if there are future events I want to distract myself from, I may even organise another one!

Saturday, 14 July 2012

Daring Cooks' July 2012 - That's Dinner All Wrapped Up!

It's Daring Cooks' posting time again! I made mine near the start of the month, and very almost completely forgot about posting it - remembered in the nick of time - now the question is, will Mini-M stay napping for long enough for me to get this post finished...

Blog-checking lines:
Our July 2012 Daring Cooks' host was Sarah from All Our Fingers in the Pie! Sarah challenges us to learn a new cooking technique called "Cooking En Papillote" which is French and translates to "cooking in parchment".

I went fishy with my dish, and cooked salmon and noodles, flavoured with ginger, spring onion, soy sauce, chili and sesame oil. It was delicious - perfectly cooked, full of flavour and healthy too. Oh, and Mr E declared it better than takeaway - high praise indeed, since we live very close to a VERY good Chinese restaurant!

Salmon & Noodles En Papillote (Serves 2)
  • 2 skinless salmon fillets
  • 2 blocks of medium egg noodles
  • 1/2 red chili
  • 2 spring onions
  • 1/2 tbsp sesame oil
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp ginger puree
  • 100 ml vegetable stock (I used Marigold mix)
  • Pinch of salt
  • Greaseproof paper for wrapping
First cook your noodles for about 2 mins in boiling salted water, until they are just on the under-done side of al dente. Rinse in cold water to stop the cooking process and allow to drain.
Preheat the oven to 180C (170C fan).
Finely slice the chili and spring onion.
Mix the chopped onion and chili through the cooked noodles, along with the ginger puree, sesame oil and soy sauce.
Take two sheets of greaseproof paper, and place a nest of noodles in the middle of each.

Top with a piece of salmon, and fold the paper up, scrunching the sides and top to seal.

I double wrapped mine to make extra sure all the fragrant steam staying inside the parcel, and didn't escape out into the oven.

Put the parcels into a casserole dish and bake for about 20 minutes, by which point the noodles will be cooked through and the fish gently perfectly steamed.
Unwrap at the table and breath in the delicious steam before tucking in!

Thursday, 12 July 2012

Beetroot Poppyseed and Lime Muffins - a delicious surprise

This post will be swift, since Mini-M is napping, and there's a pile of dishes with my name on them as well as a blog post, before she wakes up!

But I wanted to get the recipe for these Beetroot Poppy Seed and Lime Muffins written up before I forgot it - they were a very delicious experiment I baked last night as a tonic to a fairly disastrous day, because it always feels better going to bed having accomplished at least one thing successfully, even if it is just a batch up muffins baked expressly for that purpose...

Having beetroot in them balances out the icing on top, right?!
I was inspired by two different recipes - firstly these Beetroot and Choc Chip Muffins at Coffee Muffins, and secondly these Red Beet and Poppy Seed Muffins at Cannelle et Vanille.

Beetroot Poppy Seed & Lime Muffins (makes 12 small buns)

  • 1 cup SR flour
  • 1/2 cup unrefined granulated sugar
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • Zest 1 lime
  • 1 tbsp poppy seeds
  • 1 medium beetroot
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup milk (I used Oatly oat milk)
  • 1/3 cup sunflower oil
  • 2 tbsp icing sugar
  • Juice of 1/2 a lime

Preheat the oven to 180C (160C fan) and line a cupcake tin with paper cases.
Measure the flour, baking powder, poppy seeds and sugar into a mixing bowl and stir to combine.
Pare off a few strips of zest for decoration and then finely grate the rest into the bowl.
Next peel and finely grate the beetroot into the bowl too.
Crack in the egg, pour in the milk and oil, then mix until well combined.
Divide the mixture between the paper cases, filling until about 3/4 full.
Bake for about 20 mins until risen, and springy to the touch.
Remove from the tin and cool on a rack for about 15 minutes before icing.
To make the icing, put the icing sugar into a small bowl, and use a teaspoon to flatten out any lumps.
Add the juice of half a lime squeezed and mix until lump free.
Depending how juicy your lime is, you might need to add some more icing sugar to get the desired consistency.
Put dollops of icing on the top of each muffin, and finish with a twist of lime zest.

Waiting for the icing to set...
These are delicious - the sweet earthiness of the beetroot, the nuttiness of the poppy seeds and the zingy lime zest work really well together. Which was a lovely surprise, and went a long way to redeeming my sense of accomplishment in the day! I recommend muffin making therapy at the end of all unproductive days - plus you then have something tasty for coffee time the next day - even better!

2 muffins left 'naked' for Mini-M!

Saturday, 7 July 2012

Strawberry good!

Last weekend, when the weather wasn't quite as monsoon-like as today, we hit the road early and were at Craigie's Farm outside Edinburgh early. 12 mins after they opened, in fact. (That's one of the advantages of having a Mini-M who regularly gets up at 6:20am - you can fit a lot into your day!)
We were ready for some serious strawberry picking!

Strawberries as far as the eye can see... 
Here are the spoils - and bless her Mini-M was ace, and despite looking very longingly at many of the strawberries showed amazing self restraint and only licked one, then looked guilty and put it back in the basket. (To those that ate the dessert that follows, worry not, I gave her that one to eat as soon as we got in the car - your strawberries were safely unlicked!)

The haul
So what did they become? Well, some were turned into strawberry and rhubarb compote which Mini-M has been going mad over along with her special 'cream' (which is actually pouring soya yoghurt - ssssh!). Some were turned into a fresh strawberry icing to top some coconut and lychee cupcakes, soon to appear in a future post.

And some played a starring roll in a hastily invented Chocolate Brownie Strawberry Marshmallow Tart. Mr E had invited friends over to watch some Bond - he's attempting to watch all 22 in sequence before 23 is released - and just as I was about to start making dinner, we discovered there were some allergies amongst our soon-to-be-arriving guests that I'd been unaware of. One of them being eggs. So out of the window went the gooseberry meringue pie I'd been planning! And with some inspiration from this White Chocolate Toffee Brownie Tart at What Katie's Baking, I soon had the tart in the oven and my fingers firmly crossed that it would come out OK. Thankfully it did - phew!

Chocolate Brownie Strawberry Marshmallow Tart (Serves 8-10)

  • 1.5 cups plain flour
  • Pinch salt
  • Pinch baking powder
  • 1/2 cup (scant) dairy free margarine
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tbsp ground flaxseeds
  • 3 tbsp soya milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup cocoa powder
  • 250g strawberries
  • 2 tbsp unrefined granulated sugar
  • 10 marshmallows (egg free ones, if you need to for allergies)

Put your flaxseeds in a small bowl with the soya milk, stir well and leave to sit for 15 mins.
Preheat the oven to 180C (170C fan). Lightly grease a tart tin, or flan dish.
Wash and slice your strawberries.
Using an electric whisk, beat together the flax seed mixture, margarine, vanilla extract and sugar. Add the cocoa powder and mix again until well combined. Then add the flour, baking powder and salt (gradually if you don't want a giant flour explosion in your kitchen!). You should end up with a doughy mixture.
Press it into the prepared tin.
Bake for about 5 minutes, then remove from the oven and carefully arrange the strawberries on top.
Sprinkle over the 2 tbsp of granulated sugar, then return to the oven for another 5 mins.
Meanwhile with a pair of clean scissors, cut your marshmallows in half.
Take the tart out again and dot the marshmallows over the top, then return to the oven for another 5-10 mins until the marshmallows are browned.
Allow to cool slightly before cutting and serving unless you particularly enjoy burning your mouth with boiling sugar, in which case dive right in!

Cooling slightly
This was also great cold after chilling in the fridge overnight - the brownie base turned fudgy and became even more delicious (in my humble opinion...).

Chilled to fudgy perfection the next day!

Thursday, 5 July 2012

Mr E's Photo A Day Roundup - Month 4

Well, I'm running almost 3 months late with this post! Following on from my Photo-A-Day challenge in 2011, Mr E took over the mantle for 2012, and I planned to post monthly round-ups here. But whoops, somehow it's July, and the last roundup I did was for March.

Better late than never... here's April!

Week 1
Featuring indoor tent practice, pig meets pancake, rain, porridge and quid ditch on The Meadows.

Week 2
Featuring Mini-M's surprised face, trying out camping tables for size, soup on the floor, Dalkeith Country Fair, origami cranes and treasure hunting.

Week 3
Featuring post-nursery naps, reflections, pub visits, Mini-M feeding her baby, dismantled ferris wheels, not-so-relevant-in-Edinburgh Olympics posters and space hoppers

Week 4
Featuring graveyard sunsets, cherry blossom, Armenian nutmeg cake, holiday packing, sleeping bags and cowboy hats

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Bitesize Bakes Swap - Sent and Received!

I think that sending and receiving letters (or parcels) is such a lovely thing. Excepting, of course, the queueing for 20 mins in the post office with an impatient toddler whilst both people in the queue in front of you do Passport check and send without any of the correct documentation, and attempting to park at the delivery office when all of the post men in Edinburgh are loading up their vans to head out on their rounds. But even despite such pitfalls, there is something special about posting a package, or getting one addressed to you.

And this week I've enjoyed both, as I've been participating in the Bake Me sweet bitesize bakes swap.

I was paired with A Mum Who Loves to Bake and so at the end of last week, I was lucky enough to receive a parcel full of delicious dairy free cookies. She got into the experimenting spirit, to concoct something dairy free that I could eat, and came up with this great recipe for some fantastic chewy raising cookies - thanks so much!!

A delicious dairy free experiment!
And for my part of the swap, I made some sticky marshmallow toffee crispy bites dipped in white chocolate and topped with peach sprinkles. I've posted the recipe previously and it's so simple. Basically melt equal weights of butter, toffees and marshmallows together. Once melted, stir in the same weight on rice crispies then spread quickly into a tin lined with greaseproof paper. Cut into chunks and smother with white chocolate if desired! If you'd like more detailed instructions, then have a look at this post...

Crispie chunks ready to be dipped
Dipped and sprinkled
In the tin, ready to be wrapped and posted
The swap was fun to be part of - and a huge thank you has to go again to my fab swap partner, who took my awkward dairy free baking requirements in her stride!

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Random Recipes 18 - something a little different...

This month's Random Recipes challenge is a change from the regular. No rifling through cookbooks is required. No counting pages, no random number generators, in fact no cooking at all!

Instead, Dom at Belleau Kitchen, the mastermind between then Random Recipes challenges has asked us to give the world a sneak peak into our culinary lives by photographing and posting some in-situ shots of our cook book libraries.

So here's mine! But be warned - I got a little bit snap happy!
2/3 cookbooks, 1/3 board books!

Let's start with the highest concentration of cook books - the hall book case. I get 2 shelves, Mini-M gets one. Although recently she's started asking to read "Mummy books" too, and is particularly a fan of River Cottage Veg Everyday, where she likes ordering me to turn the pages and pointing out all the veg that she knows. It's a shame her willingness to eat them wasn't as extensive as her vocabulary!
A book case location shot

The bookcase sits in our hallway, with Luigi for company.
Spot the cookbooks...
 There are a few cookbooks stashed in the living room too - here's a close up...
Living room cook books
These seem mainly to be here by virtue of the fact that most of these have been given to me as presents... which have been opened in the living room and never left! They share a shelf with such living room essentials as a series of zoo animal masks, classics like "My First Mega Sticker Book" and a newspaper from the day Mini-M was born. Did I mention we don't really do filing... or indeed organisation, or tidying!
A few more obscuring a picture (poor picture!)
 These ones are some books I'm in the process of reviewing for the Daring Kitchen, so are left in an obvious place in the hope that I won't be able to overlook them. I wouldn't put it past me though!
The kitchen!
Now the one place you would probably expect cook books is in the kitchen, but weirdly here they are few and far between. Pans - check; Lots of cereal - check; Mini-M's mini kitchen - check. Cookbooks... not so many.
The cooker (and it's surrounding chaos)
No cook books in this shot either! And I'm blaming some of the surrounding cooker chaos on Mini-M who seems to derive never ending enjoyment unpacking the shelves of baking tins, flasks, tinfoil and greaseproof paper.
Oh look - the cook books!
 They might not be in the kitchen, but they're close by. Just outside the door, which currently features a giant cupcake, a colours poster, and some nursery artwork.
What's behind the curtain?

This curtain is as old as I am - I remember it at home as a child, and then when we moved into our house, it re-emerged from a box of old curtains. I love it's brown flowers 1970s feel. But what lurks behind it?
(Organised?) chaos
Our larder cupboard - full of all manner of tins and jars, including the stash of dried apricots up on the highest shelf and well out of Mini-M's reach!
Finally, the paltry kitchen cookbook offering...
In the kitchen there's only 1 actual cook book - one of the set that's obscuring out living room artwork. But beside that is 'my' cookbook. The notebook where I jot down the recipes of my kitchen creations and de-dairification of recipes.
Just chaos - no organisation this time!
And I leave you with a photo of my baking cupboard where chaos reigns well and truly. If nothing else, I hope this post has made all that read it feel good about the relative organisation, order, and control they exert over their own kitchens!!!!!


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