Last Friday I went down to Oxford as part of a surprise birthday celebration for one of my best friends from school, Keely. Around mid-afternoon on Thursday I suddenly realised that I’d be travelling on the train during lunch-time and that I’d forgotten to plan for lunch. I didn’t especially fancy over-priced, probably-not-so-great train food, which meant that I had to find something that I could make with the ingredients we had at home because it was pouring with rain (for a change), so I didn’t feel like trekking out to the supermarket. I came across a recipe for parmesan and walnut mini loaves. We had all the required ingredients, and mini loaves are practical to transport as well as easy to eat on a train without creating a huge mess – perfect!
Once on the train, I realised that I’d forgotten to take photos of the mini loaves at home, so if I wanted to share the recipe here, I was going to have to take photos of my lunch on the train. Which would have been totally fine if my camera didn’t double-beep very loudly whenever it focusses and if I hadn’t booked myself into the quiet carriage… I felt awfully disruptive, but I braved the glares and judgement of my fellow passengers and did a mini photo-shoot of my lunch. The mini loaves were rather delicious though, so I ignored the very pointed throat-clearing started from somewhere behind me after about two photos, until I’d taken a grand total of five photos. I know, I know, such a rebel in the quiet carriage.
I probably wouldn’t have felt so guilty if I’d known that my weekend would also involve practically breaking into Keely’s house to bake her a cake and madeleines as part of the surprise, making several terrible first impressions on her new housemates that she hadn’t even met yet (she’d moved into her new house the day before) and setting off their smoke alarm by accidentally lighting (indoor) sparklers directly underneath it. A beeping camera in the quiet carriage seems rather tame in comparison, doesn’t it? I realise that it sounds like we probably ruined Keely’s life for the near future, but she loved the surprise and thoroughly enjoyed her birthday – hurrah! For my part, I had a lovely weekend seeing some friends that I hadn’t seen since I left school four years ago, and (most importantly for this blog post) I had an excellent lunch on my way down. Win!
Parmesan & walnut mini loaves
Makes 6-8 mini loaves
Adapted from Mini cakes
These mini loaves are great for picnics as their shape and size makes them really easy to wrap up individually and transport, and they’re deceptively filling. It also helps that they don’t create a total mess when you eat them. They can get a little dry if left for a few days, but slicing them thinly and spreading butter on each slice sorts that out. To make a large, single loaf of 26 cm in length, apparently you can add an additional ¼ of the ingredients and an extra egg, and cook for a little longer.
140g all-purpose flour
30g chopped walnuts
70ml olive oil
1 heaped tsp baking powder (equivalent to 5.5g or ½ a French sachet)
1. Butter and lightly flour the mini loaf tins, or set out silicone moulds. Pre-heat the oven to 180°C.
2. Coarsely grate 140g of the parmesan into a medium-sized bowl. Cut the remaining 50g of parmesan into small chunks using a knife, adding it to the bowl, but reserving about ⅓ of the chunks (for sprinkling on top of the mini loaves. This is optional, and you can just add all the parmesan to the bowl). Add the flour and chopped walnuts to the parmesan bowl, add some ground black pepper and mix together.
3. In a separate bowl, lightly beat the eggs together with the oil and milk. Add the dry ingredients, and mix together, taking care not to over-mix (it’s fine if it’s a bit lumpy). Gently fold in the the baking powder.
4. As soon as the baking powder has been mixed in, divide the batter between the loaf tins. Sprinkle the reserved little parmesan chunks over the tops of each mini loaf and bake for about 30 mins, until a toothpick comes out clean. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for about 10 mins in the tins before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely.