Each year I experience three weight spikes. Holiday. Christmas. Birthday. It’s inevitable, and it’s earned.
True to form, the majority of birthday presents this year revolved around my two main interests, books and food, including what I seem to have decided is called “cocomond and almonut butter”. This year was particularly good, with a parade of meals out – that sounds fancier than it was – and a whole load of new discoveries. We’ll be here forever if I run you through it all, so instead, here’s my best bits. Read More
couple of weeks back, on one of those many days when people were questioning if somebody had twisted the planet to place us back in February, with the threat of rain hanging over us, I went to a talk at Borough Market with Stephanie. It was based around what makes good food writing – the styles of recipe writing, how best to introduce a dish, how many ingredients is too many. The best bit of the night was probably the food after the panel, but as I tucked a blanket up around my neck and listened to how food writing should carry emotion and take a reader to another place, I couldn’t help thinking What if it’s just a recipe you like? What if it’s no more complicated than that?
So. Here’s something that I like. It doesn’t need a personal essay or a link back to childhood. The recipe is all about a sweet, pillowy dough that makes a light floof sound when you turn it out and the joy of painting with jam and studding it with chocolate. Read More
On Monday morning, I stepped out of the front door and it smelt like the summer finally turning to my favourite season. There was an edge to the air, the temperature a little cooler. “At last,” I thought, “Autumn’s arrived. Not long till I can crack out the tweed jacket again.”
And by 1pm I was cursing wearing three quarter sleeves and trying to convince myself that it wasn’t really obvious that my entire face was sweating. What the hell, autumn? You’re teasing me.
I tried to encourage you with salted caramel candles, but their smell mingled with my bravest perfume to make my bedroom smell like holiday caravans and now I’m terrified I stepped onto a packed tube smelling musty and a bit like pee.
There are a lot of smells I wish I could bottle: the smell of the house I grew up in, a fragrance you can’t detect unless you’ve been away from it for too long; the fresh crispness as summer turns to autumn and winter turns to spring, smell, taste, and feel all in one; sizzling bacon wafting through the flat.
I could also do with a perfume that smells of baking bread with butter, sugar and spices. Maybe Nigella should do a celebrity perfume. Who wouldn’t want to smell like dessert? (Apart from cannibals, maybe).
Because even if it’s still 26C outside, the aroma of pumpkin, maple, and all the best spices will make everything feel a bit more cozy. In one whiff it’s chilly Sunday mornings and knee high Fairisle socks, wooly hats and coming in from the rain to clasp a huge mug of hot chocolate with both hands.
The maple and pumpkin flavours are delicate, the back up singers to the star of the show – pumpkin pie spice. Since cobbling together a jar of the stuff, I’ve thrown it into yoghurt and onto toast, but I like it best wrapped up in warm, soft dough.
Now I just need the weather to catch up with me.
Pumpkin pie spice
Below is the ratio of spices – it’s easily scaled up to make a jar full.
2 tbsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp allspice
1/2 tsp ground cloves
Mix ’em up and store in an airtight container!
The dough and the filling both use Moose Maple Butter, a taste revelation that burst into my life a couple of months ago at Food Blogger Connect. It’s UK launch isn’t until November – but it’s worth the wait. Your morning (and lunch, and evening…) toast will never be the same again.
For the dough:
350g plain flour
1 envelope of yeast
1/2 tsp salt
55g maple butter
110g pumpkin puree
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 large eggs
For the filling:
55g maple butter
2 tbsp pumpkin pie spice
1) Whisk together 2/3 the flour, the yeast, salt, and sugar in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, lightly beat the eggs.nIn a small saucepan, warm the milk and butter until the butter has just melted. Remove from the heat and allow to cool slightly before whisking in the pumpkin and vanilla extract.
2) Pour the milk mixture into the dry ingredients, and mix with a spatula. Add the eggs and stir until evenly distributed.
3) Add the remaining flour, mix until fully incorporated and transfer the mixture to a large greased bowl. Cover with cling film and live in a warm place until doubled in size. While the dough rises, mix together the sugar and spices and grease a large roasting tray.
4) When the dough has risen, tip it out onto a generously floured surface, and lightly knead about 3 tbsp of flour into the dough. Split the dough into two equal portions. On the floured surface, roll one portion out into 25cm circle.
5) Warm the butter until just melted and spread half of it over the rolled dough, using the back of a spoon or a pastry brush to push it to the edges. Sprinkle with half the sugar and spice mix.
6) Use a pizza cutter to divide the circle into 16 segments. Roll each segment tightly from the edge of the circle inwards and transfer to the roasting tray. Repeat with the second portion of dough and remaining filling.
7) Cover with a clean towel and leave in a warm place until almost doubled in size. Preheat oven to 180C.
8) When almost doubled in size, bake the rolls on the centre shelf of the oven for 35 minutes, until a deep golden brown on top. Allow to cool slightly before serving.
It’s no secret here that I think about breakfast a lot. Usually this means pancakes and porridge and an abundance of hot cross buns, but every now and then you need a proper English breakfast.
The other thing about breakfast, though, is that I like mine to be transportable, or at least able to be eaten at the office – I even took speculoos pancakes to the office to reheat and have with bananas. These parcels tick those boxes. Okay, so there’s no beans (how I like my breakfast) and it’s almost like a quiche. But you can pick it up and eat it on the move, without sacrificing any of that proper breakfast goodness.
English breakfast parcels
Serves 6 (ramekins)
3 rashers bacon, smoked or unsmoked, chopped
50g mushrooms, sliced
6 sheets filo pastry
4 eggs, whisked with 4 tbsp milk & seasoned with pepper
30g cheese, grated
5 cherry tomatoes, sliced (optional)
1) Preheat oven to 160C. Lightly fry bacon pieces and mushrooms slices (and tomatoes, if using them) until just cooked, then set aside. Brush each ramekin with a little butter to grease.
2) Cut your pastry sheets in half. Line a ramekin with one half, allowing excess to hang over the sides, then coat with butter using a pastry brush and place the second half on top, perpendicular to the first and allowing no gaps.
3) Add 1/6th of the mushroom and bacon to the ramekin, and top with approximately 5g grated cheese. Pour over the egg mixture until about 5mm from the top of the ramekin. Fold the excess pastry over, scrunch up, and dab with butter.
4) Repeat 5 times, and bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from ramekins when cool.
After the Great Speculoos Poem of 2012, I kept my distance from the stuff. I couldn’t be trusted with it – I’d go into the kitchen to do some washing up only for my housemate to find me hunched over the jar, wild eyed like a fox caught in the act of tearing a bin open, and shovelling spoonfuls into my face. So I finished up the jar – this may or may not have included me dragging my fingers through the nooks and crannies to get the last bits – and vowed not to buy it again until I’d either gained willpower or lost about 3 stone.
And all was hunky dory. Or it was, until Steph, of Riverside Baking fame, told me it was on offer in Waitrose. You know what this girl loves? Biscuits and bargains. So how was I to turn down a biscuit-based bargain?
So of course I got it. But I’m making progress, guys! I actually managed to make something with it this time. Taking baby steps (and giant spoonfuls). Oh and the pancakes? They’re amazing. Absolutely, perfect-with-bacon, exactly-what-you-need-at-11am-on-a-Sunday, amazing. I even took some spare ones to work on Monday to eat warm with bananas. I’m onto a winner.