Spring Greens

Spring is springing vivaciously, verdantly, vividly.

I love Spring, almost as much as I love Autumn; its all about the edges of things for me. The edge of Winter as it graciously gives way to the bounding, lively greenness of Spring. Those crisp mornings where you can smell the life around you shaking off the frost and stretching towards the sun.

As I have rather a lot of time on my hands at the moment I have taken to rambling about the countryside with the dog, searching (as I do any time I go for a wander to be honest) for edible treats along the way. Much of what I’m hoping to find falls into the ‘Spring Greens’ category, things like Wild Garlic, Three-cornered Leeks, Dandelions and new growth Nettles.

Trug Full of Love

Trug Full of Love

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Crock Pot Chicken

It has been aaaaagggess since I last wrote a post but due to some fairly big upheavals I haven’t had much time to write recently!

I am back in the UK for a spell, so am enjoying a little spring time weather. Spring calls for a mixture of culinary delights as the temperatures can vary so much, with super sunny days like today, mixed up with grey days that crop up to remind you its England…and its cold.

At the moment I am also kitchenless, as Mum’s kitchen has been taken out ready for a replacement…in four weeks time. Crock pot it is then!

Crock Pot Chicken

Whole chicken (size it right for your crock pot/slow cooker), carrot, leek, mushrooms, green beans, half a glass white wine (optional), seasoning.

Slice up the vegetables and place in the bottom of the crock pot. Put the chicken on top. Stuff a few slices of leek in the cavity of the chicken then pour the wine in. Season the top of the chicken with salt, pepper and herbs of your choice – a sprig of fresh thyme or rosemary would be excellent, dried is fine also. Turn your slow cooker to hot and leave for 6-8 hours. A lot of liquid will come out of the chicken to provide a stock for gravy or a thin sauce if you prefer.

If you have any left overs, blitz with a stick blender and serve as soup for lunch the following day (week…it was a big chicken…)

Lemon, Cranberry and Poppy Seed Scones

Eeerrrrmaaagosh! I have just eaten half the batch…My thought process behind batches of things is that if I eat all of them in one go then I remove the temptation that they offer and am therefore better off. It happened with a bag of toffees yesterday, reeces pieces too. I’m holding out that its the eating session that counts i.e. lunch, rather than the calories I’m consuming…yeh right. Off to the gym then.

And they're scone!

And they’re scone!

These are really tasty. And there’s not that much butter OR sugar so they’re kind of healthy. Unless you eat them all…in one go. They make a great breakfast, if they last that long, or an afternoon snack with a coat of butter.

The cranberries look like little hidden jewels and the poppy seeds give a delightful texture too. And the lemon, well. I love lemon for the irresistible citrus tang it gives in an other wise sweet dish.

Lemon, Cranberry and Poppy Seed Scones

225g S.R. flour, 55g butter, 55g sugar, 150ml milk, 100g dried cranberries (cut in half if they’re big), juice of one lemon, zest of one lemon, 3 tbsp poppy seeds

Mix the flour, sugar and poppy seeds together in a large bowl. Using your fingers, rub the cold butter into the flour until it resembles bread crumbs.

Rub a dub dub

Rub a dub dub

Stir in the lemon zest and cranberries. Mix the lemon juice with the milk, it’ll curdle slightly and give you a buttermilk (slightly sour) flavour. Combine the milk and other ingredients in the bowl with a metal knife until you have a sticky batter.

Ruby Scones

Ruby Scones

Using lots of flour turn out the dough onto a clean surface and knead gently for a minute or so. Do not over work it as you’ll end up with flat scones. Press into a flat circle of about 2cm thickness and slice into eight. Place each slice on a greased baking tray and put straight into the oven at 220 C for 10-12 minutes or until the tops are golden brown.

*recently I’ve been having issues with burnt bottoms and I have been reliably informed that its probably the pan I’m using. Make sure you buy the right pans for the job…I am currently trying to use a pizza pan for everything and its not working very well.

Nutella Cookies

The OH thinks I have a problem…I can’t stop looking at pictures of food. Every spare minute I have he catches me looking at Pinterest, other food blogs, my food blog.

That's right dear, I only made four...

That’s right dear, I only made four…

So, yeh. I’m obsessed, so shoot me (ah, please don’t! At least not until you’ve tried these cookies?)

Nutella, flour, egg

Nutella, flour, egg

Three ingredients. That’s it. And one of them is Nutella. The other two are flour and an egg. That is it! As with the salted caramels I made for Christmas, this recipe has been floating about on Pinterest for ages and as I had a spare like, two minutes I decided to give it a whirl.

Nutella Cookies

1 cup flour, 1 cup nutella, 1 egg (that really is it…)

Mix it all together in a bowl. Make little balls about an inch across and press them flat-ish on a lined baking sheet. Even if you turn your oven on before you start it won’t be hot before these are ready to go in. They are so easy peasy!! Bake at 180 C for 7-8 minutes. They burn quick, don’t let your oven get too hot or leave them too long. Eat all of them, before the OH gets home so as to hide the evidence of your addiction…or share them, up to you.

p.s. I’m trying it with peanut butter tomorrow!

 

 

Breakfast Muffins

“Do you know the muffin pan?”

“The muffin pan?”

“The MUFFIN PAN!!”

So yeh, apparently the Maltese don’t do muffins…I even went to specialist catering shops and all I got were blank stares. How do they not know about muffins?!

After months of searching I finally found a muffin pan in a ‘everything including the kitchen sink’ kinda shop owned by an English guy. He seemed a little freaked out about just how excited I was getting over finding a muffin pan. Weirdo. Me I mean, not him.

I can use my pirate cup cake cases – Arrrrghhh! – I mean, yay!

And this is what might go in them, or some of them at least:

Banana Bread Breakfast Muffins with rum ‘coz we’rrrrre pirates, aye?!

75g melted butter, 250g self-raising flour, 115g caster sugar, 2 large ripe bananas, 2 medium eggs, 75ml milk, 50ml dark rum (optional, replace with milk), 1 tsp baking powder, ½ tsp bicarbonate of soda, pinch of salt, ½ tsp ground cinnamon, ½ tsp ground nutmeg

Melt the butter and allow to cool. Mash the bananas well with the rum. Sift the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg together in a large bowl, add caster sugar and stir through. With a fork, beat together the eggs, melted butter and milk in a second bowl. Add the mashed banana and stir through. Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients and add the wet mixture, stirring roughly with a fork (don’t over mix). Set paper cases into the moulds, or grease the moulds well with a little extra oil or butter and spoon in the mixture until almost full. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until the muffins come away from the side of the pan when touched. Rest the muffin tray on a wire rack for five minutes then remove the muffins and leave on the rack for another five minutes before serving.

Bananananananana!

Bananananananana!

AND, because I am still clinically obsessed with pumpkin and the OH really enjoyed the pumpkin coffee cake I made the other day here are some pumpkin muffins inspired by this recipe from How Sweet It Is, but altered a little as I can’t get some of the ingredients in Malta…

Pumpkin Muffins

100g wholewheat flour, 100g self raising (o.k., I ran out of wholewheat so chucked some S.R. in too…), 50g oats, 250g pumpkin puree, 100g brown sugar, 50ml full fat milk, 1 tbsp grated ginger, 4 tbsp brown butter, 2 eggs, 1 tsp baking powder, 1/2 tsp salt

Brown Sugar Crumb: 25g brown sugar, 25g plain flour, 1 tbsp melted butter (mix until crumbs come together)

Brown Sugar Glaze: 50g brown sugar, 30ml thick cream (i.e. whipping cream), 1 tsp ground ginger (mix in a saucepan and stir over a low heat until sugar is dissolved)

Mix the flour, oats, sugar, baking powder and salt together in a large mixing bowl. In another bowl, whisk the pumpkin, ginger, eggs, milk and butter together. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and fold together until just combined with a metal spoon. Using a tablespoon, fill cupcake cases (or 3/4 fill muffin cases) with the batter. Top with the brown sugar crumb and bake for 20 minutes at 180 C. While still hot, poke holes in the cakes with a skewer and drizzle with the brown sugar glaze.

Rum break, I mean TEA! Tea break...

Rum break, I mean TEA! Tea break…

Not exactly the healthiest breakfast on the block, but definitely a warming one for chilly winter mornings! Have with your coffee before braving the outdoors, or save until elevenses to warm yourself up with.

Melanzane Parmigiana

Melanzane. Ah, I love this word. Say it with me: Melanzane.

Mel - ant - zaané

Mel – ant – zarné

It means aubergine in Italian and hearing them say melts my insides. As does this recipe. It is so warming, and comforting and packed full of cheese. Amazing winter warmer. And one of the vegetarian options on my Delicious Dinners list. Its super filling and has no carbs except the breadcrumbs on top which are kind-of optional. The sauce needs long slow cooking so this one takes a little time but it is soooo worth it. Even the Italians loved this when I cooked it for them last summer, they couldn’t believe an English cook had made it…

Melanzane alla Parmigiana

Large aubergine, 2 balls mozzarella, 2 tins whole, peeled plum tomatoes, olive oil (loads), garlic, onion, glass of red wine, oregano (fresh if possible), handful fresh basil leaves, breadcrumbs, Parmesan

First off we’ll start the sauce. In a large pan heat a large glug of olive oil then add the finely chopped garlic and onion, sweat until soft and sweet with a pinch of salt. Add the wine and simmer gently until reduced by about half. Open the cans of tomatoes and, with your fingers, squish the whole tomatoes into the pan. Retain the sauce in the cans. Chuck in a handful of fresh oregano or a heaped tablespoon of the dried stuff. Add another big glug of excellent olive oil and simmer gently for as long as you can – over an hour is good, adding a little of the tomato sauce from the tins if things get a bit dry but you’re going for a nice thick sauce.

Slice the aubergines thinly into rounds. For a slightly healthier option, you could griddle all the slices, for a totally unhealthy option fry them all in oil. Or do a bit of both for a middling option as frying them makes them so soft a scrummy that to not have any in there would be a shame (this is packed with cheese so its never going to be a healthy dinner anyway…).

Super Supper

Super Supper

In a deep, square/rectangular oven dish layer the sauce, cheese and aubergine slices in the following order: sauce, aubergine, sauce, mozzarella slices (seasoning), grated parmesan, aubergine, sauce, mozzarella slices, grated parmesan mixed with breadcrumbs to top.

Put into the oven at 180 C for 30 minutes, then turn the oven up to 200 C for 10 minutes if the top hasn’t browned nicely. Top with torn basil leaves before serving. Eat with lots of crusty bread and a large glass of Italian red wine. Possibly a leafy green salad too, depending on how bad you feel about consuming that much cheese…

 

Pumpkin Coffee Cake

…with brown sugar glaze.

How good does that last bit sound?!

I still haven’t found a muffin pan. I have the most amazing little pirate cupcake cases and paper pirates on sticks to put in them…

Thank you Father Christmas!

Thank you Father Christmas!

…and I can’t bake with them because apparently no one in Malta bakes cupcakes! Gah! This means I still haven’t tried these. Which makes me a little bit sad.

So until then I shall make tray bakes instead. Which makes me happy, yay!

I may have mentioned before how much I like pumpkin? And that even if the Maltese don’t do cupcakes, they sure do pumpkin – there is tons of it and its super cheap. AND you can buy it in segments!

A little small for Cinderella's carriage...lets eat it instead

A little small for Cinderella’s carriage…lets eat it instead

I usually make coffee cake as a go to sponge as Victoria sponge can just be a little too tame for me. And the OH has a serious thing for coffee too.

A tasty pear

A tasty pear

The following is a combination of the two above, kind of a sponge cake but also kind of a fruit loaf. But square, and with brown sugar glaze on top.

Pumpkin Coffee Cake

250g pumpkin puree, 200g self raising flour, 150g light brown sugar, 100g butter, 2 eggs, 1.5 tsp baking powder, 2 tbsp instant coffee

Brown Sugar Crumb: 1/2 cup brown sugar, 1/2 cup plain flour, 4 tbsp melted butter (I know I normally hate cups but this is a ratio thing and not weight so is not sooo important)

Brown Sugar Glaze: 100g brown sugar, 50g granulated sugar, 1 tsp ground ginger, 75ml extra thick double cream

First make the pumpkin puree. This is best done in large batches and can be frozen or used in other things such as pasta sauces, or gnocchi. Roast the pumpkin in large slices until the flesh is soft enough to mash with a fork. Using a food processor, blend the pumpkin until very smooth, adding a little water if necessary to keep it moist. Weigh out 300g for this recipe, then pop the rest in the fridge for later, or label and freeze.

Line a brownie pan with greaseproof and lightly grease with butter. Heat the oven to 180 C. Cream 100g butter with 150g of light brown sugar until pale and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time. Don’t worry if it splits, it’ll come together again when the flour is added. Fold in the flour and baking powder, incorporating plenty of air. Mix the instant coffee into the pumpkin puree then fold into the cake batter until just combined. Pour mix into the brownie pan.

To make the brown sugar crumb mix together 1/2 cup of brown sugar, 1/2 cup flour and melted butter. Use fingers to sprinkle over the top of the batter in the pan.

Try to wait until its cooked before you eat it huh?!

Try to wait until its cooked before you eat it huh?!

Bake at 180 C for approximately 30-40 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean.

For the glaze, combine the other 100g brown sugar, 50g granulated sugar, 1 tsp all spice, and the double cream in a saucepan and bring to a simmer. Remove from heat and stir until all the sugar is dissolved.

When cake is finished baking, poke holes in the top with a skewer. Pour the glaze over the cake, making sure to cover it all. Serve it warm with vanilla ice cream and remember to thank me for your sugar coma when you can’t get to the gym :-)