Raspberry and Poppyseed Muffins

Think I must have bought some kind of super-hybrid raspberry bushes as, two months on from the very first berries, they are still producing super-sized sized fruit. 

Growing high on tall, prickly branches, these berries have been safe from the jaws of my berry loving pup meaning that I have been able to feast on them rather than him.  As always, the majority of the berries have been picked and eaten there and then amongst the shrubs but last week I managed to restrain myself just enough to collect a small punnet for the following muffins.  Ever so glad I did.  These are ridiculously good.

Moist, creamy and beautifully speckled, the only negative thing I have to say about these cakes is that they don’t freeze very well.  So you’ve got to eat them all in a couple of days.  Ah, the hardship…  😉

Raspberry and Poppyseed Muffins (adapted from Tom Aitkens’ Cooking)

(makes 12)

60g butter

100g caster sugar

2 large eggs, yolks and whites seperated

1 tspn vanilla essence

100ml buttermilk

3 tblspn poppyseeds

150g plain flour

1/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda

1/2 tsp baking powder

Pinch of salt

1/4 tsp cream of tartar

100g raspberries, left whole

  • Cream the butter and sugar together.  Add the egg yolks gradually and stir well to combine.  Add the buttermilk, vanilla essence and poppy seeds and set aside.
  • In a seperate bowl, whisk the egg whites and cream of tartar until stiff whites form.  Fold this into the former mixture carefully.
  • Sift the flour, bicarb, baking powder and salt into the bowl along with the raspberries and fold until just combined.
  • Spoon into a buttered muffin tray and baked at 180oCfor 20 minutes or until golden.

P.S. Don’t forget to join in the Fridge Door Competition for a chance to win one of my two favourite cookbooks.  🙂

The Fridge Door Competition

A picture on Lucy‘s Flickr page at the weekend reminded me how much I love to nosey at other people’s fridge doors.  I adore the photos and post-its and recipes and silly magnets that crowd together or stand alone telling me more than I knew before about the fridge’s owner. 

My own door (above) doesn’t have quite enough silly magnets and as a result the pictures and paper that I have stuck to the fridge don’t always stay stuck and on many a day I can be heard swearing as I pick them up off the floor yet again.  But I always put them back on.

So here’s what I’d like you to do: email me a picture of your fridge door along with your name and location before Saturday, 27th September 2008.  If you have a blog then you might want to post it on there too and link back here.  Then again you might not.  

On Sunday, 28th September, 2008 I will post all of the photos on this site and select a winner at random.    The prize will be a copy of either the wonderful Ottolenghi Cookbook or the equally fabulous Greens Cookbook.  Your choice.  🙂

Email your entries to: wjharrison77 (at) aol (dot) com

Marco Pics

Enjoying the weekend and my new Ottolenghi cookbook.  Will post something substantial tomorrow.  Until then, here’s a few of my my favourite recent Marco photos.  

He’s a dog of many faces, I think.

Blueberry Soup

I should have more blueberries than this.  Last year I had oodles and gorged myself on them every morning before work.  Having taken very good care of the bushes over the last months and having watched tiny white flowers turn into mini bulbous berries before my eyes, I assumed this year would be no different.  But as the berries ripened, they just mysteriously disappeared. 

It must be that cheeky blackbird, I thought.  Or perhaps it’s the gorgeous greenfinch getting his revenge for me shouting out the window at him one morning.  (They do have rather irritating cheaps.)  Mice maybe?  Or bats? (They like fruit, don’t they?)  A plethora of rodents and winged things were blamed for my lack of blueberries before I discovered the culprit lay much closer to home. 

In fact, he lay at the bottom of my bed.

 

Yes, it seems that Marco likes blueberries and that next year I’ll have to fence off my veggie patch if I want to eat any myself.  This year, I’ll just have to make do with store bought which exactly what I did yesterday to make blueberry soup.

I first bought mustikkakeitto  or blueberry soup in Finland by accident: I thought it was a carton of yogurt and was rather shocked when a dark red, viscous substance began covering my morning muesli.  For an awful moment I thought I had been transported into a horror movie and backed away from my bowl lest a sinewy hand thrust out and tried to grab me. 

After pouring the liquid into a glass and giving it a cautious sniff and a reluctant taste, the alarm passed and was replaced by whole-hearted approval.  Very quickly blueberry soup (which is more of a hot drink really) became a favourite post-work pick-me-up drink, especially in the icy winter months when colds and other ailments were common.

 

Blueberry Soup

(for 2 mugs)

200g blueberries (fresh or frozen)

500ml cranberry juice (go for the unsweetened or light version as many cranberry juices have a REALLY high added content)

1 tablespoon sugar (optional)

1 cinnamon stick

1 cardamon pod

1/4 lemon

1 tblspn cornflour

2 tblspn water

  • Add the blueberries, cranberry juice, cinnamon, cardamon and sugar to a pan.  Bring to the boil, reduce the heat and simmer gently for 10 minutes, occasionally mashing down the berries.
  • Sieve the  liquid and discard the mashed berries and spices.
  • Mix the cornflour with the water and add to the berry juice. 
  • Heat and stir until the soup thickens slightly.
  • Serve in mugs. 

 

P.S. This is my entry for the No Croutons Required event, hosted this month by the lovely Holler.

An Autumnal Harvest

Autumn’s here.  The leaves look tired and and are very slowly beginning to turn russet and red.  It’s too dark to walk Marco at 6am now and twice last week the temperature dipped to 3oC in the early morning and I had to put on my woolly hat to go to the woods!  Autumn is definitely here.

Must say, I have reconciled myself to this fact better than I thought I would.  Summer this year was lovely and I didn’t feel quite ready to let it go and venture into the months of dark nights and cold noses.  But this weekend I embraced the chill in the air, got my thermal socks out and used the beautiful fall fruit from my garden to prepared a hearty, warming feast to celebrate the engagement of one of my best friends. 

We skipped a starter and went straight for a hearty main course of herby pork sausages baked with cherry tomatoes, rosemary and thyme and served with a luxuriously cheesy mash and a mountain of garlicky green beans.  Yum, yum.  Dessert was the following apple and plum pie served piping hot with an dollop of Mackie’s vanilla ice-cream.  Absolute bliss.

I could definitely get used to autumn.  🙂

 

Apple and Plum Pie

For the pastry:

250g plain flour

50g icing sugar

125g cold butter, cut into cubes

1 tsp cinnamon

1 egg, beaten

2 tblspns milk

For the filling:

6 apples, peeled, cored and cut into thick slices

400g plums (pre-stoning weight), stoned and halved

30g butter

30g caster sugar

1 tspn ground ginger

1 tspn cinnamon

  • Whizz together the flour, icing sugar, cinnamon and butter in a food processor for 20 seconds or so until the ingredients have combined to a crumb -like texture.
  • Add the egg and milk and whizz again until the ingredients form a scraggy lump.
  • Remove from the mixer and, with cold hands (run them under the tap), pat into a smooth ball.  Cover with cling film and rest in the fridge until required (at least 30 minutes).
  • Meanwhile, prepare the filling.  Melt the butter, sugar and spices together.  Add the apples and cook until almost soft.  Add the plums and cook for 5 more minutes.
  • Remove from the heat and spoon the filling into a pie dish or shallow cake tin.
  • Roll out the pastry to 1cm thickness and place over the pie dish, trimming the edges.  Brush the top with beaten egg and sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon.  Poke a few holes into the pastry then bake on the bottom of a 180oC oven for 45 – 60 minutes or until the pastry is golden brown.

 PS No photo of the pie, I’m afraid.  A real downside of the darker months is the trouble getting a good picture. 

Gourds

Two of my colleagues had a gourd growing competition.  This is one of the competitors’ offerings. 

Very pretty.

Think I’ll join in next year.  🙂

Working Girl

Still busy, still knackered and still training for that bloody 10k.  As a result of all this, I’m also still eating a lot of pasta.  That’s no hardship for this girl though, I love the stuff and have a trillion tried, tested and adored recipes using it.  The following recipe for Pasta Puttanesca is one of my all time favourites which, really, is quite impressive out of a trillion recipes, don’t you think?

The name Pasta Puttanesca translates as “prostitute’s pasta” though there is some confusion as to why.  Some suggest it is simply because the sauce’s flavours are bold, others claim it was a favourite speedy supper of Italian ladies of the night and others still assert that the dish used to be placed in the windows of brothels to lure customers inside.  The latter idea sounds utterly ridiculous to me.  Anchovies and lust?  Really?

Anyway, forget the confusion over the name and just try this out sometime.  It’s fabulous.  🙂

Pasta Puttanesca

(serves 2)

1 tblspn olive oil

3 anchovy fillets

2 small garlic clove, chopped finely

Pinch of chilli flakes

1 red pepper, sliced

2 handfuls of cherry tomatoes, left whole but slit slightly with a sharp knife to let the juice out

1/2 tspn oregano (dried)

Handful of black olives

Heaped tablespoon of capers

200g spaghetti

Handful of parsley, chopped

  • Melt the anchovies gently in the olive oil in a frying pan.  Add the garlic and cook for another minute.
  • Add the pepper, tomatoes, olives, capers, chilli and oregano to the pan.  Cook over a medium heat for 15-20 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, cook the spaghetti.  Drain, reserving a little of the cooking water.
  • Toss the pasta with the sauce and the fresh parsley.  Taste for seasoning and serve.