Thursday, November 12, 2009

Pantry Perks

Here is a recipe for the always favourite chocolate brownie and uses the cheaper and softer chocolate 'cake covering' (but use the darker chocolate that has 70%+ cocoa solids if you prefer then be generous with the marg), and also includes raisins and walnuts which adds more nourishment so that we can feel we are offering a 'healthier' brownie to children and adults alike. As these will freeze, worth making ahead for the festive season.
Raisin Brownies: makes 16 squares (F)
3 oz (75g) margarine
2 oz (50g) plain chocolate cake covering
5 oz (150g) moist brown sugar
2 eggs
3 oz (75g) plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
4 oz (100g) raisins
2 oz (50) walnut pieces, roughly chopped
Melt the margarine and chocolate in a bowl standing over hot water. Remove from heat and beat in the sugar and eggs. Sift the flour and baking powder together and stir into the mixture, then fold in the raisins and walnuts.
Pour into a greased and base-lined 7" (18cm) square, shallow tin, and bake at 180C, 350F, gas 4 for 40 - 45 minutes or until the cake has begun to shrink from the sides of the tin. Cool in tin for 10 minutes then cut into squares.
To freeze: cool completely in tin, then remove as a whole, wrap, bag up, seal and label. Use within 3 month.
To serve from frozen: remove outer wrappings, thaw at room temperature for 3 - 4 hours, then cut into squares.

Final recipes today are for muffins, the first savoury, the second for the sweet-toothed. The American muffin is a larger and coarser version of our 'fairy' or 'cup cakes' and very easy to make as it is a matter of using one bowl of dry ingredients, another of wet, without a rush to put them together (sometimes I prepare the mixture the evening before and then assemble when ready to cook - but a lot depends upon which muffin recipe is used). The wet/dry mixtures are rapidly mixed together and lumps allowed as overmixing ruins them. Best eaten the day of making, preferably while still warm (otherwise they tend to dry out quickly), some - such as the second recipe - will keep longer because of the moist fruit used.

This first is the savoury version, that eats very well served warm with butter and a cup of tea as a snack, served with a cheese omelette as a light lunch or supper.
Pea and Ham Muffins: makes 12
4 oz (100g) frozen peas
10 oz (300g) plain flour
1 tblsp baking powder
pinch dry mustard
1 tsp salt
2 tsp fresh chopped chives OR...
...half tsp dried mixed herbs
freshly ground black pepper
1 large egg
4 oz (100g) feta cheese, crumbled
7 fl oz (200ml) full fat milk
2 oz (50g) cooked ham, diced
3 oz (75g) Cheddar cheese, grated
Blanch the peas for 2 minutes in lightly salted boiling water, then drain and refresh under cold running water. Drain and set aside.
Sift the flour, baking powder and mustard together into a bowl, then stir in the salt and herbs, adding ground pepper to taste.
In another bowl, lightly whisk the egg, then add the cheese and continue whisking until the cheese has combined smoothly with the egg. Whisk in the milk, then take a wooden spoon and stir in the prepared peas and ham.
Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix quickly but lightly until just combined. Do not overmix.
Spoon mixture into a well greased 12-hole muffin tin and sprinkle the top of each with the Cheddar cheese. Bake at 180C, 350F, gas 4 for around 20 minutes, or until the muffins are golden brown and firm to the touch.
When cool enough to handle, turn out onto a wire rack and serve warm.

This next muffin recipe is a fruity one, and although the recipes uses blueberries, blackcurrants or blackberries (or any other soft fruits that go with bananas could be used instead). Because the fruit keeps the muffins moist, these keep longer and will store in an airtight tin for 3 days or can be frozen for up to a month.
Banana and Blueberry Muffins: makes 12 (F)
10 oz (300g) self-raising flour
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
4 oz (100g) light muscovado sugar
2 oz (50g) porridge oats, plus 1 tblsp
2 medium bananas, riper the better
1 x 284ml carton buttermilk or natural yogurt
5 tblsp light olive oil
2 egg whites
150g punnet (5oz) blueberries
Sift the flour and bicarb into a bowl. Reserve 1 tsp of the sugar and add the remainder to the flour with the 2 oz porridge oats. Make a well in the centre.
In a separate bowl mash the bananas until smooth, then stir in the buttermilk, egg whites and oil and mix until combined.
Pour the wet ingredients into the well of the dry ingredients and mix quickly together using a wooden spoon. The mixture will appear lumpy with even an odd speck of flour visible, but as ever with muffins DO NOT OVERMIX.
Add the chosen berries, giving it one more stir, then divide the mixture between 12 muffin cases sitting in a 12-hole muffin tin - these will almost fill the cases to the top, then sprinkle the tops with the reserved oats and the tsp sugar. Bake at the usual 180C oven temp (see above) until risen and dark golden. Leave in the tray to cool for 5 minutes before removing to a cake airer to cool completely.
Eat when just cooled or store for up to 3 days in an airtight tin. Freeze as recipe above.