Saturday, 19 July 2008

Strawberry muffins

So. It's the first day of the summer holidays. Eventually we drag ourselves from our beds.

"What would you like for breakfast darlings?" I trill at my two sweet urchins, pulling on my domestic goddess apron, plimming my bosom and tossing my hair in the style of Nigella.

"A treat," demands R4.

Rightyho. Is this the way summer is to pan out? Am I making a rod for my own back? Will they expect me to cook something from scratch every breakfast time?

Ptooey, as whatshisname says in the film 'Ratatouille'.

Anyway, today 'breakfast' is a loosely applied term, it being already pretty late. Not quite late enough, perhaps, for it to have become 'elevenses', but not quite the normal crack-of-dawnsiness one would really associate with the term.

A treat it is then. I survey the wreckage of my kitchen. I say 'wreckage' because last evening Brian took out two of the cupboards, the work surface and the radiator, then dug a big hole in the floor. No matter. I have a cooker and the top of the dishwasher, so off I go.

Yesterday was Farmers Market day in Haverfordwest, and I have a large punnet of fragrant strawberries from Manorbier. Muffins are breakfasty, so strawberry muffins it is. I turn, of course, to Nigella, at breakfast-times in need of treat, so I begin with her Orange Breakfast muffins recipe from Nigella Bites, and add strawberries.


75g butter

* Switch the oven on to Gas Mark 6 (200 degrees C) and pop the butter into the oven to melt (use an ovenproof bowl! Doh!). Then pop twelve cake cases into your muffin tin.

220g self-raising flour
25g ground almonds
half a teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
one teaspoon baking powder
75g caster sugar

* Combine in a large bowl.
* Rescue the butter!

100ml orange juice
100ml milk
1 large egg

* Mix together in a jug, then add the cooled butter.


* Not an exact science this. Start off with about 16 big juicy strawberries. Fend off small, hungry children. Fail. Chop the eight remaining strawberries into cubes.

* Roughly combine the wet and dry ingredients and the strawberries. Pile into the muffin tins.

* Any mixture that you can't squeeze in can go into the oven in the oven proof bowl you used for the butter. The children won't know about this big, flat muffin cake. Cook's perk!

* Bake for 20 minutes, until golden brown. Serve hot with butter (or, better still, clotted cream).

Makes 12 big fruity muffins (and a spare!).

Monday, 7 July 2008

Raspberry oaties

Today's recipe is one I found on this morning when I had a big punnet of raspberries from the garden and a head empty of ideas as to what to do with them.

Things like cranachan sprung to mind, but I thought I'd better not give whisky to a six year old and a four year old. Anyway I hadn't any double cream and, now that petrol is gold-plated, 'just popping to the shop' needs careful consideration; will the journey cost more than the thing you are about to buy? Yes. Go without then.

So my search led me to this recipe for raspberry oaties by Berry Scotland.

What you do is rub 175g of butter into 225g of self-raising flour to make nice rubbly crumbs. Then stir in 175g each of rolled oats and golden caster sugar. Squidge and squeeze with your hands until you've got what, to all intents and purposes, is a oat crumble topping mixture.

Next press half of it into a swiss roll tin or a tray bake tin and press it down. Then get your lovely fresh raspberries, about 300g or so, spread them out over the mixture in the tin and press.

Then, if you're like me, panic that the tin you have chosen is too small, shrug and carry on regardless. Sprinkle the rest of the crumble mixture over the surface, catch up the bits that missed the tin and are on the work surface and put them back. Then press, press and press again (until it more or less is squeezed into the tin.) It will look like this:

Next bake at Gas Mark 5 (190 degrees C) for 20 to 25 minutes until it is golden brown.

Leave it to cool in the tin for ten minutes or so before cutting into squares. I don't make my squares all beautifully even - I do some big, some tiny. This is really so that I can say 'oh no, I shouldn't, oh go on then, just a little one...' but in fact I have one and then think, 'well was was just a tiny one...' and eat another three.

What can I say? Great recipe. A different way to use raspberries when there's a glut (I'm not a jam-maker). What you get is a pastry-like base, soft and fragrant with the juice from the fruit, a layer of soft raspberry-ness, and a crunchy, oaty topping. Very tasty.

Of course I then got to thinking about variations. Other berries, for example. I'm sure strawberries, blueberries and blackberries would all work here, and blackcurrants too as there is quite a bit of sugar to offset any sourness. You could use frozen fruit too, just thaw and drain, then carry on with the recipe as above. I have a whim to replace some of the flour with cocoa powder and add chopped dark chocolate to the topping too. Maybe next time!