Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Lavender Cupcakes

With Ostara coming up my thoughts turned to what I could bake that would really encapsulate the essence of spring.  Now when I think spring, I think that warm sunshine on your face, the emergence of the first green and spring flowers.  But how to put that into a cake?  Well, a few months ago I was reading Sweet Sugar Sixpence's blog that they had been making rose and lavender cupcakes.  The idea stuck in my mind and popped out again for this baking conundrum, and so I did some googling until I found a recipe that looked like a good contender on the Homes and Property website.  I have a huge bag of lavender seeds in my craft room that have been hanging around for a while, bought for making fragranced wheat bags and now sitting waiting for something else so that wasn't a problem to find.

The recipe was an easy one to follow, so long as you remember to put your flowers into the milk to infuse in plenty of time the rest is child's play.  The mixture smelled divine, the aroma as they cooked was a warm meadow and once they were frosted and ready to eat?  Moist, fragrant, heaven.  My SO, not really the sort to resort to purple prose dubbed them 'like eating part of spring'.  The lavender flavour was perfectly balanced, it wasn't subtle, there was no doubt that you were eating a lavender cake but it also wasn't overpowering.  They were, in a word, wonderful.

Thoughts of rose cakes were abandoned for now (perhaps for one of the summer sabbats!) and the lavender has been declared the official cupcake of spring.

Just a note, the recipe made 12 cupcakes, not the muffin size cakes, and the frosting volume could probably be halved unless you want a really thick layer.  They looked so pretty topped with a sugar flower (even if the frosting split because I used dairy free spread!).

Saturday, 6 March 2010

Banana Muffins

Bananas.  We love them, and yet there always seems to be that few that go brown and don't get eaten (especially as I myself like my nana's barely ripe, there's like a 24 hour window in which I will actually eat one before the flavour gets too ester-y for me and I give up on them.  However brown bananas give us opportunities for bakery, and necessity is the mother of invention.  So when I have a few brown nanas I either bake up some sugar free banana bread (I will blog this one day, it so good you'd never know it was sugar free), make banana pancakes or banana muffins.

Scouting around for a new nana muffin recipe to try I came across this one on the BBC Good Food site.  It looked simple and tasty, and didn't have a high sugar frosting to it so was more suitable for the bevy of under 5's I was planning on feeding them to!  A simple walnut adorned the top.

They rose beautifully, the recipe says it makes 10 but it easily made 12.  Their surprisingly light and the banana isn't overpowering.  I'm sure they would taste awesome with a cream cheese frosting, or served with creme freche as the recipe suggests, but they were also really, really good plain!

Thursday, 4 March 2010

Garlic spiked aubergine

I love aubergines. I love moussaka, Imam Bayildi (the Imam fainted, who can't love a dish that's so good it makes a holy man swoon!), I love it stuffed in a veggie curry or chilli, or just grilled in great slices until its soft and flavoursome. I'm always looking for new ways to cook them though, and when I came across a recipe for Garlic Spiked Aubergine I just couldn't resist. Its from Catherine Mason and Elda Abraham's Vegetable Heaven cookbook, although in that they top it with a breadcrumb crust which I ignored for the sake of my gluten free needs (Orgran make gluten free breadcrumbs and whilst theses are great for bulking out burgers etc. they are far too dry for a crust of any kind). This recipe basically called for halving the aubergine, making deep scores in it into which you put thin slices of garlic (a clove per half), brushing with olive oil and then baking in a medium oven in an oiled dish for about an hour. The top was toasty, the flesh was soft and the flavour was wonderful! So simple and so good.

To partner this, I made up a quick chick pea and tomato dish, frying onions and garlic before adding a tin of each of the main ingredients and letting it simmer for a while. I served this with a side of corn bread, not the muffins that I have previously blogged about, but my pancake style recipe which is so quick and easy its untrue.

Pancake style corn bread
1/4 cup of polenta
1/4 cup of plain flour (works great with Dove's Farm Gluten free!)
1/4 cup of milk (works great with Rice milk)
1 egg
1tsp Baking powder
2 tbs oil

Heat a pan over medium heat, and warm up 1 tbs of the oil. Mix all the other ingredients in a bowl. Add to the pan and cook until the bottom is brown (in my omelette pan the top is still liquidy at this point but it depends on the circumference of your pan!) Flip over and cook until both sides are brown. Serve!

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Sweetcorn Fritters

I love El Piano in York. It's a vegan, gluten and nut free restaurant and is the one place in the world (other than their branch in Spain) where I can eat everything on the menu without thinking about it twice. Which would be great in itself, but when you add in that the food is tapas style, spans the world in its influences and the setting is a funky, upbeat and casual restaurant you have a recipe for a very happy me. On a recent visit with non-veggie, non-coeliac friends who love the place too, my SO bought me the El Piano cookbook. Glee! It's a great book for cooks (it assumes you know how to make basic food already) packed full of simple recipes for some of the tastiest food on the planet. Since I've had it, I've made dinner from it multiple times but its been so good I haven't paused to take pictures or blog about it! We ate butternut squash curry and coconuty dhal, we've had aubergine bake (with tomato, pepper and fennel sauce) and today for lunch we had sweetcorn fritters.

Like the other recipes, this one is nice and simple. You whizz up a tin of sweetcorn, in its juice, in a food processor then add chilli, chopped onion, sugar (which I think you could probably cut down on the recipe quantity) and polenta to make patties which are deep fried til golden. We ate them with a salad and some sweet chilli dipping sauce which was a great combo. I was scaling down the recipe and guestimated the amount of sugar, but think I would probably drop it a little lower next time around as they were a bit too 'cakey' in their sweetness for my taste. Made in less than 20 minutes though!

The book itself is bright and colourful, and written in a casual style. Each page is a recipe which is written in a step format rather than the usual ingredients then method style. Most recipes are 4 or 5 steps. One thing I love about El Piano is how packed with flavour all their dishes are, and looking at the recipes has taught me a few new techniques that I've already taken elsewhere.

The recipe book is available from their website or the restaurant itself.