Tag Archives: Breakfast

Making marmalade the Mel way

I hurt.  All over.  And it’s my own silly fault.  You see, due to a general lack of exercise for the past few months, I’m shockingly unfit.  So it was obviously an excellent idea to go from practically no exercise to cycling on Saturday, playing two hours of ultimate frisbee on Sunday (I don’t even know how I got talked into that.  It involved an awful lot of stop-start running.  I hate running.) and cycling again yesterday.  Pacing myself sensibly is not one of my strong points.  And holy guacamole am I paying for it.

Tamarillo marmalade 1

That same all-or-nothing approach isn’t just restricted to poor exercise-related decision-making.  There were some beautiful tamarillos at the farmers’ market a few weekends ago.  So instead of buying a few, I came away with 2kg.  I knew I had some recipes for various tamarillo-based preserves and chutneys squirrelled away, so I dug them out and decided to transform the evidence of my, ahem, slight overenthusiasm into tamarillo marmalade.  Despite loving marmalade, I’d never actually tried making my own before, so this seemed as good a time as ever.

Tamarillo marmalade 2

To be perfectly honest, halfway through slicing 1.5kg of tamarillos, I got a bit bored and started to question whether all this effort was going to be worth it.  I had a similar crisis of enthusiasm the following evening whilst making the marmalade and wondering why it was taking forever to gel.  When I checked the recipe again, I discovered that I’d mixed up the quantities with another recipe that I’d considered and used 1.5kg of tamarillos instead of 1kg.  And then I’d forgotten that I’d used 1.5kg of tamarillos and calculated the sugar based on 1kg of tamarillos.  No wonder.

Tamarillo marmalade 3

Thankfully, the marmalade did eventually gel.  And also happens to taste delicious.  Tamarillos are a little bitter, but not hugely so, which means the decreased sugar isn’t problematic, the marmalade is just the right amount of bitter.  So it worked out wonderfully.  That, I’m afraid, is the Mel show – more than a little disorganised, but I somehow usually manage to fudge it and make it look/taste like I totally knew what I was doing.  More by accident than any sort of actual skill.  Which I’m sure gives you great confidence in my recipes…*

Tamarillo marmalade 4

Tamarillo marmalade

Makes just over 4 x 350ml jars
Adapted from A fruit cookbook

To sterilise the jam jars, wash the jars and lids in hot, soapy water before placing on a baking tray and placing in an oven on low heat until fully dried, about 10 mins or so.  It might be an idea to use jam sugar, since the added pectin would probably help the marmalade gel a bit quicker.  I should warn you that the marmalade does take a while to make, and you do have to keep an eye on it.  But don’t be put off by that, just make sure you don’t have any pressing engagements.  The marmalade is delicious on toast and scones or in porridge and would probably make a delicious meat glaze, too.

Ingredients

1.5kg tamarillos
750g caster or granulated sugar (or jam sugar)
2 unwaxed oranges
1 unwaxed lemon

Directions

1.  Place the tamarillos in a heat-proof bowl (you may need to do this in batches) and pour boiling water over them.  Allow to sit for 1-2 mins, then skin them, starting by lopping off the stalk with a sharp knife and peeling off the rest of the skin (the skin peels away very easily once started).  Finely slice the peeled tamarillos, place them in a large bowl with 250g of the sugar and stir together.  Cover with a lid or cling-film and leave to stand overnight.

2.  Finely slice the oranges and lemon, removing any pips.  Add to a large mixing bowl with 750ml water, cover with a lid or cling-film and also leave to stand overnight.

3.  The next day, place several saucers or small plates in the freezer.  Add the orange and lemon peel and water to a large heavy-bottomed pan and simmer over a medium-low heat until the skins turn transparent.  Then add the tamarillos and simmer until tender.  Finally, add the sugar and ensure that it dissolves before turning the heat up a little and bringing the marmalade to a rolling boil.  After about 15-20 mins, remove one of the saucers from the freezer, place 1 tsp of the marmalade and place in the fridge for 1 min.  Push your finger through the marmalade on the saucer.  If it wrinkles, the marmalade is ready.  If not, allow the marmalade to continue on a fast boil for another 4-5 mins and test again.  Continue until the marmalade wrinkles.  As soon as the marmalade is ready, remove from the heat.

4.  Allow to cool for 20 mins.  Skim any scum off the top and ladle the marmalade into sterilised jars and seal (a jam funnel helps considerably).

Enjoy!

PS – I’m submitting this to this week’s Made with Love Mondays hosted by the lovely Javelin Warrior.

Made with Love Mondays, hosted by Javelin Warrior

* I feel that I just should point out that I only ever post recipes that actually worked for me.  And if I’m not sure, I’ll double test them.

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Banana & walnut muffins

To put it mildly, our freezer is rather chock-a-block.  To the point where something inevitably comes cascading out whenever you open it, which is mildly annoying when all you want are a couple of ice-cubes for your G&T.  I mean, uhm, water.  Several weeks ago, I decided to start playing “freezer roulette” – open the freezer, and use up whatever comes tumbling out (as long as it belongs to me – actually nobody quite remembers precisely what belongs to whom, which is a whole other issue, so the game also requires some detective work).

Banana & walnut muffins

After several bananas came shooting out at me a few weekends ago, I decided that banana & walnut muffins were on the cards for breakfast.  I enthusiastically set about whipping them up, not thinking about what I was going to do with a dozen muffins – I obviously wasn’t going to be eating them all by myself, even spread over two breakfasts.  Excellent planning, right there.  Since it was a Saturday, my usual tactic of taking surplus baking into the lab wasn’t going to work, so banana & walnut muffins were forced upon kindly offered to anybody who had the misfortune of stopping by the house that weekend.

Luckily, the muffins turned out rather scrumptious – filling without being heavy, full of banana and walnut flavour and with a lovely slight crunch on top (although this softens up if left overnight).  I’d wanted to add extra walnuts to the topping but ran out, so that would add a further delicious crunch.  Nobody complained about being effectively force-fed muffins.  And they make a fabulous breakfast by the way, especially since they don’t take too long to throw together.

Freezer roulette anyone?

Banana & walnut muffins

Makes 12 muffins
Adapted from My Baking Addiction

These make great breakfast muffins as they’re easy to throw together.  If you’re using frozen bananas, remember to take them out far enough in advance to defrost (you can leave them out overnight if making these for breakfast).  Toasting the walnuts is optional, but I find it really does enhance the flavour and really doesn’t take long.  If you’re a big walnut fan, feel free to add some to the topping as well (I would have, but I’d run out).  Muffins are best eaten the same day, but they will keep for a couple of days in an airtight container – the topping will just go a bit soft.

Ingredients

For the muffins:
200g all-purpose flour (190g)
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp ground cinnamon
Pinch of salt
3 very ripe bananas (defrosted frozen ones are fine)
100g caster sugar
50g light brown sugar
80 ml rapeseed oil (canola oil)
1 egg
1½ tsp vanilla extract
75g walnut halves or pieces

For the topping:
50g light brown sugar
2 tbsp all-purpose flour
½ tsp ground cinnamon
15g unsalted butter

Directions

To prepare the muffins:
1.  Roughly chop the walnuts halves or pieces and toast in a frying pan until fragrant (watch they don’t burn).  Set aside to cool whilst preparing the muffins.

2.  Line a muffin tin with liners or set out 12 silicone muffin moulds on a baking tray.  Preheat the oven to 210°C/fan 190°C.

3.  Sift the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, cinnamon and salt into a large bowl and stir together.

4.  In a medium-sized bowl, mash the bananas with a fork.  Add the sugars, egg, oil and vanilla extract and whisk together (either by hand or by electric whisk).

5.  Fold the banana mixture into the flour mixture using a metal spoon until just combined (there should still be a few small streaks of flour in the mixture).  Fold in the toasted walnuts and spoon the batter into the prepared muffin tin or moulds, not filling them more than ¾ full.

To prepare the topping:
6.  In a small bowl, stir together the sugar, flour and cinnamon.  Rub in the butter, until crumbly in texture.  Sprinkle over the tops of the muffins.

7.  Bake for 18-20 mins, until risen and a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean.  Either eat them warm or remove from the tin/moulds to a wire rack to cool.

Enjoy!

Since these muffins are made from scratch, I’m submitting them to this week’s Made with Love Mondays hosted by Javelin Warrior.  One of the guiding principles is to avoid using frozen produce when you can use fresh, and whilst I did use frozen bananas, this recipe works perfectly whether using fresh or frozen bananas, so I’m sure that’ll be acceptable.  Plus the bananas only ended up in the freezer because we had a deluge of overripe fresh bananas in the first place.

Made with Love Mondays, hosted by Javelin Warrior

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A snack fit for a hungry hobbit

Happy Waitangi Day for yesterday to any New Zealanders out there – I hope you all enjoyed your day off and had the same beautiful weather as we did!  I was actually in the lab trying to fix up some of the cameras I need for my experiments.  It might not sound like the most thrilling way to spend a public holiday, but at least it didn’t require too much intense thinking and I knew that I’d be going for a lovely long swim once I got back.  Until a tsunami warning was put out after the earthquake in the Solomon Islands.*  Having to stay away from beaches and out of the sea thwarted my plans for a swim somewhat.  So instead,  I made a slight dent in the backlog of blog posts from the safety of our hilltop house.  Because blogging and exercise are totally interchangeable, right?

This post has nothing to do with tsunamis by the way.

Today’s recipe dates back from Kat was visiting over New Year’s.  (What blogging backlog?)  I’ve previously mentioned that we went on a little trip to Hobbiton whilst she was here.  Neither of us survive day trips without some sort of snack to keep us going – much like any self-respecting hobbit, actually – so we decided to make some homemade granola bars to take along with us.  I have a jar of raisins permanently soaking in rum, so we decided to dig into that and throw some into the granola bars.  Because why wouldn’t you?  Adding rum to granola bars obviously means that we’re winning at life.

Why would you use normal raisins when you can use rum-raisins?

Oats, nuts and (rum-soaked) dried fruit all contribute to a good snack that keeps you going, and we added some dark chocolate chips just because.  We threw in some macadamia nut butter that I had loitering in my cupboard, which turned out to be a rather excellent idea.  If you don’t happen to come across some on offer at a farmers’ market, I’d suggest almond butter or even peanut butter (although peanut butter would have a much stronger flavour).  These granola bars are pretty soft so they may crumble a little with transport, but if you wrap them up well in baking paper, it won’t be a problem.

We had planned on taking photos of the granola bars in Hobbiton…  But we got a little distracted and forgot.  Woops.

Almond, ginger & rum-raisin granola bars

Makes 12 bars
Adapted from BBC Good Food

The great thing about these bars is that all the ingredients are easily changed – substitute different nuts, different dried fruit, more (or fewer) chocolate chips or crystallised ginger, etc.  If you don’t have macadamia nut butter (I only have some because I came across some at a farmers’ market), almond butter would work well, as would peanut butter (though peanut butter will have a stronger flavour).  I used manuka honey for the flavour, but use whatever you’ve got available (or a mixture).  Soaking the raisins in rum is obviously optional, but highly recommended (unless you’re making these for kids, obviously…).  The bars are best wrapped in baking paper to transport them (they won’t stick to the baking paper), and will keep well for a few days in an airtight container (they’ll probably last longer actually, but we ate them all…).

Ingredients

100g raisins
Spiced rum
200g oats
100g slivered or flaked almonds
50g butter
50g light brown sugar
50g macadamia nut butter
3 tbsp honey
1 tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp ground cloves
¼ tsp ground nutmeg
50g crystallised ginger
50g dark chocolate chips (at least 70%)

Directions

1.  Add the raisins to a bowl or jar and cover with spiced rum.  Soak for at least 1h, but the longer the better (top tip: I always keep a jar of raisins soaking in rum.  You know, for emergencies…).

2.  Line a 25 x 19 cm baking tin with baking paper (otherwise you won’t be able to get the granola bars out afterwards).  Pre-heat the oven to 160°C/fan oven 140°C.

3.  Add the oats and almonds to a roasting tin or lipped baking tray, stir and toast for 5-10 mins in the oven, until fragrant.  Leave the oven on.

4.  Meanwhile, add the butter, macadamia nut butter, brown sugar and honey to a large saucepan and melt together.  Once smooth, stir in the spices, then add the toasted oats, chocolate chips, chopped crystallised ginger and raisins.  Stir together until well coated, transfer to the prepared tin, press down evenly and bake for 30 mins.  Allow to cool fully in the tin before cutting into bars or squares.  Wrap in baking paper to transport.

Enjoy!

Granola bars with rum.  Winning at life.

*The warning was eventually cancelled and no tsunami turned up, so nobody panic.

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Greek yoghurt & honey cake: Deliciousness guaranteed, sharing optional

A large portion of this blog wouldn’t have been possible without the help of my trusty electric whisk.  All the macarons, the seal cake, the meerkat cake and most of the cupcakes – basically anything involving whisking egg whites into peaks or creaming together butter and sugar (which I’m too lazy to do by hand – shocking, I know).  The whisk also had a stick blender attachment, which made it ideal – only one appliance to make both cakes and soups saves on storage space – and was why I commandeered it from was given it by my mum when I moved up to St Andrews for uni (maybe also because it was free).  I forget whether it was my mum’s just before or just after she was married, but either way, it was older than me.  By several years.  And yet it still worked wonderfully.  It served me well whilst I was in St Andrews, and I loved it to bits, but by the time I started packing for my move to NZ, it was nearing the end of its (long) life span.  The motor was clearly just a few icing sugar explosions away from giving up (I’d had a couple of scares towards the end of my time in St Andrews).  Rather than shipping it over, having it break and then having to get a new one, I figured I’d skip the first two steps, give the whisk/blender an early retirement and just get a new one when I arrived here.  Simple as.

Well… in theory.  Apparently electric whisks with a stick blender attachment are few and far between now, and those that do exist have pretty poor reviews.  Damn.  So I’ve had to buy an electric whisk and a stick blender separately, which is slightly frustrating in terms of storage, but I guess that now I can whisk egg whites or make buttercream icing and blend soup at the same time.  Because that would totally end well…  I’m just hoping that they last me a long time (although their predecessor has set the bar pretty high).  It’s taken me four months to actually get round to buying them.  Four months of getting excited about recipes until realising they require egg whites to be whisked into soft peaks.  Four months of no soup (I like my soups smooth).  A bit ridiculous really, but when I realised that my Random Recipe entry for this month involved whisking egg whites I finally had to get my act together (thanks Dom!).  And it turned out to be a fantastic recipe to test out my new electric whisk.

Following on from last month’s theme of “first and last,” the theme for this month’s Random Recipe challenge is “the middle.”  I randomly picked A Treasury of New Zealand Baking as my book, which has 232 pages of recipes, so I turned to page 116, which houses a recipe for… Greek yoghurt and honey cake with a raisin lemon syrup.  I’ve been rather lucky with my Random Recipe entries over the last few months, and it seems that the streak continues.  I’m not complaining!  The cake turned out rather scrumptious.  It’s wonderfully moist and full of flavour thanks to the syrup that gets poured over the top at the end.  It’s excellent for breakfast (the amount of whisky in the syrup is minimal and it gets simmered anyway), for morning tea, for afternoon tea and for dessert.  I can say that with confidence, because I’ve (enthusiastically) tested all those options out personally.  I know, I know, I totally took one for the team.  It also keeps for a good few days, and it’s almost tastier after a couple of days as the flavours in the syrup pervade the cake over time.  Confession: this cake is so tasty that it’s a little difficult to share.  I had originally planned to take it in to the lab, and well… that never really happened.  Ahem.  I’ve had great breakfasts this week though (it has raisins, thus it’s totally breakfast food…  Don’t judge).  I think next time I’ll tell them I’m bringing cake so that I have to actually follow through with it.

Greek yoghurt & honey cake, with a raisin, lemon & whisky syrup

Serves 8-10 as a snack, 5-6 for breakfast
Adapted from A Treasury of New Zealand Baking

The syrup would also work wonderfully with spiced rum instead of whisky, or alcohol-free if necessary.  It’s quite dense so it works wonderfully for breakfast or as a snack (in smaller portions) accompanied by tea.  The cake is kept moist by the yoghurt in it, so it’ll keep for a good few days (in fact, I think I preferred it after a couple of a days as the flavours of the syrup develop).

Ingredients

240g all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
Pinch of salt
240g unsalted butter, softened
120g caster sugar
3 tbsp honey
Zest of 2 lemons
4 eggs
240g unsweetened Greek yoghurt

For the syrup:
180ml water
120g caster sugar
120g seedless raisins
Juice of 2 lemons
2-3 tbsp whisky
2 tbsp honey
1 star anise

Unsweetened Greek yoghurt, to serve (optional)

Directions

1.  Butter a 24cm round cake tin.  Pre-heat the oven to 180°C.

2.  Sift the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and salt into a medium bowl and stir together.

3.  Zest the lemons into a large bowl (keep the lemons to use the juice in the syrup later on) and add the cubed butter, sugar and honey.  Beat together until light and creamy.  Then beat in the egg yolks one at a time (put the egg whites directly into a large clean bowl for later).  Once all the egg yolks are incorporated, add about a spoonful of the flour mixture and beat in, followed by about a spoonful yoghurt, and continue alternating between the two.

4.  In a large, clean bowl whisk the egg whites into soft peaks.  Gently fold the egg whites into the cake mixture.

5.  Pour into the cake tin and bake for 1h05 until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.  Cool for 10 mins in the tin before turning out onto a wire rack to cool fully.

Making the syrup:
6.  Whilst the cake is in the oven, start prepare the syrup.  Add all the syrup ingredients, except for the yoghurt, to a small saucepan and allow to marinate whilst the cake is baking.

7.  As the cake is cooling, heat over a low heat until the sugar dissolves.  Bring to the boil and then simmer for 10 mins until thickened and syrupy (a syrupy syrup – my descriptive abilities amaze me sometimes).  Allow to cool a little, but not completely, and fish out the star anise.  Once the cake is completely cool, slide it onto a plate and then gently pour the syrup over the top and spread the raisins out evenly.

8.  Serve warm or cold, with a large spoonful of yoghurt if desired.

Enjoy!

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Cinnamon & raisin pinwheels

When I first arrived in New Zealand, I began looking for a recipe book of New Zealand recipes, preferably one categorised by seasons because as I’ve mentioned previously, I was having difficulties convincing myself that apricots in February were totally seasonal.  However, this wasn’t quite as straightforward as I’d expected and even the guy in the bookshop that I found that specialises entirely in cookbooks (uh-oh…) said that there weren’t really many books like that around.  However, apparently there is a big baking tradition, and judging by most of the recipes, this seems to have been brought over by British settlers.  So I walked out of the aforementioned bookshop with A Treasury of New Zealand Baking (after paying, obviously), which is made up of recipes by a whole host of the top Kiwi chefs, bakers and food writers, and there’s a range of recipes for all occasions, importantly using ingredients and fruits available here.  I hadn’t baked from this book yet, so I picked it for this month’s Random Recipes, the theme of which was “If I knew you were coming…” which meant we had to bake something to celebrate the 2nd birthday of Belleau Kitchen.  Happy blog-birthday, Dom!

The random number button on my trusty calculator referred me to page 200, which were the variations on a scone recipe.  I decided to go for the cinnamon pinwheels option, because, well, they sounded delicious.  I’ve never made scones before – to be honest, they’ve always intimidated me a little (a lot).  Scones just seem to be one of those baked goods that are straightforward, but can go wrong so easily, and if you do them wrong, they can turn out inedible.  So I was a little daunted at trying this recipe out, but rules are rules, so I got on with it…

I decided to throw some raisins in, so they turned into cinnamon and raisin pinwheels, and they turned out rather tasty.  I was expecting them to rise a little more than they did, but I think this might have been because I don’t quite have the “lightness of touch” required for scone-making.  I’m sure it’s a skill I just need to practice…  Don’t be surprised if scone recipes start popping up on Sharky Oven Gloves left, right and centre (and if you never see another scone recipe again… you’ll know that the “lightness of touch” skill is still eluding me).  I’m also entering these into this month’s Breakfast Club, being hosted by Utterly Scrummy Food for Families, who happens to be a Kiwi living in the UK (and I’m sure she can correct me if I’ve got the Kiwi food scene completely wrong!).  She chose “Sweet treats and pastries” as the theme – these might not quite count as a pastry, but they definitely count as a sweet treat!

Cinnamon & raisin pinwheels

Makes 12-14 pinwheels
Adapted from A Treasury of New Zealand Baking

These make a delicious breakfast, although they do take a little bit of time to put together.  You can make them the evening before and they’ll keep if wrapped well.  It is important to work these lightly or they will lose their lightness.  They didn’t rise quite as much as I was expecting, but I think that might be because I wasn’t quite as gentle with the dough as I should have been – they were still delectable though!

Ingredients

6 tbsp soft brown sugar
2 tbsp cinnamon
375g all-purpose flour
3 ½ tsp baking powder
1 tbsp icing sugar
Pinch of salt
50g unsalted butter, cold
100g raisins
1 egg
300g unsweetened natural yoghurt
Milk, to brush

Directions

1.  Line a baking tray with baking paper.  Pre-heat the oven to 240°C/fan oven 220°C.

2.  Mix the brown sugar and cinnamon together in a little ramekin.  Set aside.

3.  Sift the flour, baking powder, icing sugar and salt into a large mixing bowl and stir together.  Dice the cold butter and rub into the flour mixture using your fingertips.  Stir in the raisins.

4.  Lightly beat the egg in a small bowl.  Add the yoghurt and mix together, before pouring into the dry ingredients and stir with a fork to bring the dough together into a soft, sticky dough (add a splash of milk if the mixture is too dry, but it will get stickier as you roll it).

5.  Turn out onto a floured work surface and pull the dough together quickly so that it is soft and smooth.  Lightly roll out into a rectangle of about 20 x 40 cm and 1cm thickness.  Brush the dough with a little bit of milk.  Keep aside about 3 tbsp of the cinnamon sugar mix and sprinkle the rest evenly over the dough.  Roll the dough up from the long side and gently pressure it to make it an even thickness along the roll.  Cut into 2.5cm slices, and place cut side up on the prepared baking tray, leaving about 2cm between each pinwheel.

6.  Brush the tops with a little milk and sprinkle with the remaining cinnamon sugar mixture.  Bake for 12-14 mins or until risen and golden.

Enjoy!

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Last blueberries of the season? I’ll take 1kg please!

Fun fact: I arrived in Auckland two months today.  Part of me feels like it can’t possibly have been that long already – there are still plenty of things that I’m not sure how they work (I only cracked the bus system the other week) or where to find certain things.  But then part of me feels I’ve been here so much longer, probably because I’ve finally more or less got a routine going and am feeling more settled.  Part of my routine involves going to the farmers’ market on Saturday mornings.  There are several farmers’ markets across Auckland, and when I first arrived, I tried the one in the centre of town (and closest to me) a few times, but I was distinctly disappointed.  Plenty of food to eat on the spot but not much in the way of produce, which for me is the whole point of a farmers’ market.  A couple of weeks ago, I finally got around to trying the Parnell Farmer’s Market, which I’d heard was much better.  And indeed it was, although there didn’t seem to be much meat for sale.  There were plenty of fruit and vegetables though, including a whole blueberry stand.  I hadn’t really planned on buying any, but on being told that they were the very last blueberries of the season, I happily trotted off with 1kg of blueberries.

You might think that 1kg is a little excessive, especially since I hadn’t actually planned on buying any… but I had a very specific plan for these very-last-of-the-season blueberries.  I’m still struggling with the seasons being six months out of sync, so I know that come June and July when the Northern hemisphere (and many of the food blogs that I follow) will be full of summer berries, I’ll be really jealous, because it’ll be the middle of winter here.  But I can still have blueberries this winter, because I made blueberry jam.  Actually, if I’d been really smart, I’d have bought 2kg, used half for jam and frozen the other half for baking throughout winter.  Didn’t think of that at the time though…  Never mind.

I love home-made jam – it always makes me think of France.  Making jam has to be one of the easiest things in the world.  I know in my last post I said that tarts are super easy, but jam is even more straightforward.  It is literally just fruit and sugar.  And you only need 1 pot (granted, a big one), so it’s not a particularly space-intensive thing to make (which is excellent when you have a small kitchen without much counter space), and it also means minimal washing up (always a bonus).  Many jam recipes call for a 1:1 ratio of fruit to sugar, but I find that these jams often tend to be far too sweet, particularly for a fruit like blueberries which aren’t particularly bitter to start with.  None of my recipe books had a blueberry jam recipe, which surprised me a little, and the internet wasn’t terribly helpful either.  Is blueberry jam a really uncommon thing?  Why?  Do people just not like it?  So I asked my mum, and none of her recipe books were much help either.  Even the one specifically about jams.  We decided that I should go for 750g of jam sugar to 1kg of fruit and just see how it turned out.  Thankfully, it turned out rather well.  Terrific in fact.  There’s an intense blueberry flavour, it’s a beautiful colour, and it’s not too sweet.  Hurrah!  So now I can have blueberries in winter…

Blueberry jam

Makes about 3 x 375ml jars
Very loosely based on BBC Good Food (June 2011)

This jam is wonderful for breakfast, but would also be delicious on scones with afternoon tea.  To sterilise the jam jars, wash the jars and lids in hot, soapy water before placing on a baking tray and placing in an oven on low heat until fully dried (about 10 mins or so).  I tend to like my jam without too many whole berries in so I mashed them quite a bit at the end, but that’s entirely up to you.  You could probably reduce the jam sugar down to 700g (maybe even 650g), but will probably have to boil the jam a little longer.

Ingredients

1 kg blueberries
750g jam sugar
1 lemon

Directions

1.  Pop a few saucers in the freezer to be used later (I ended up using 2).

2.  Place the blueberries in a preserving pan or large pot (remember that the jam will increase in volume when bubbling away, so make sure the pot is large enough).  Stir in the sugar and place the pan over a low heat, stirring regularly (the sugar will slowly turn pink and liquify), and taking care that the jam does not boil.

3.  Once all the sugar has dissolved, stir in the juice from the lemon and turn up the heat.  Once a fast boil – 105°C on a preserving thermometer – has been reached, time the jam for 8 mins.  After 8 mins, place 1 tsp of jam onto one of the frozen saucers and place in the fridge (allow the jam to continue on fast boil in the meantime).  After 1 min in the fridge, push your finger through the jam on the saucer.  If the jam wrinkles (this may sound strange, but you’ll be able to tell exactly what I mean when it happens), then it is ready.  If not, allow the jam to continue on fast boil for a further 2 mins before testing again.  As soon as the jam is ready, remove the pan from the heat.

4.  Allow to cool for 20 mins, then skim away any scum from the top of the jam.  Using a potato masher, mash the jam as necessary (this depends entirely on your taste – I tend to mash it quite a bit, but you may find that you don’t want to mash it all).  Ladle the jam into sterilised jars (a jam funnel helps considerably).

Enjoy!

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Sharky Oven Gloves goes vegan…

Guess what?  It’s already April 1st in my time zone, which means…  April Fools’!!  Nobody panic, Sharky Oven Gloves is most certainly not launching into veganism (like I’d ever choose to cut butter and cheese out of my life…).  Well, except for today’s post which does actually feature a vegan recipe (shock horror, I know).  You see, this is my entry to the March Breakfast Club challenge, and I’m cutting it extremely fine with the deadline since it’s already April for me, but thankfully the timezones are totally playing into my favour with this!  The challenge is being hosted by Makey Cakey and she chose the theme “deliciously dairy-free“, which was definitely a real challenge for me.  I’m a total dairy fiend, and I’ll let you in on a little secret: one of my greatest fears is to suddenly develop lactose-intolerance.  I drink a glass of milk every morning, I eat a heck of a lot of cheese and you are guaranteed to find at least three different types of cream hanging out in my fridge at any given time.  So it’s taken me the entire month to actually come up with something to make for the challenge.

Initially on reading the challenge theme, I thought it wouldn’t be too hard, I could just make something that doesn’t involve milk or yoghurt.  Or cheese, which I don’t usually have for breakfast anyway.  Simple.  And then I realised that butter is also dairy product.  Oh.  That complicates matters somewhat.  Which is how I ended up with a vegan recipe for today’s post – I’ll be honest, dairy-free or vegan foods are not usually my top choice when it comes to trying out recipes.  And by not usually I mean never.

I didn’t want to mess with the original recipe too much – baking without eggs, butter or milk is something that I never do so it’s difficult to judge the effects of changing the ingredients.  I used wholewheat flour instead of normal flour, and added some banana chips and left it at that.  After my new-found love of the combination of mango and chocolate, I very nearly threw some chocolate chips in, but then remembered that chocolate isn’t dairy-free.  I also very nearly buttered the tin, but luckily realised that that would defeat the entire point of this.  I wasn’t terribly convinced by how the recipe was going to turn out.  The batter seemed odd to me, but I put it in the oven, crossed my fingers and contemplated drinking a big glass of milk whilst waiting for it to come out…  It turned out better than I was expecting – it tastes totally delicious and although it seems a little dry, luckily the mango chunks give the loaf some moistness, which balances it out.  As a result of this, I’m now slightly less distressed at the prospect of vegan or dairy-free baking, but my huge fear of suddenly developing lactose-intolerance still stands.

Mango banana bread

Makes 1 loaf
Slightly adapted from Joy the Baker

The batter seemed a bit odd and rather dry as it went into the tin, but it came out well – the mango chunks help to moisten the loaf whilst it bakes.  I would perhaps suggest adding an extra half banana for moistness though.  The banana chips are totally optional but add a lovely little crunch.  This loaf will keep for a few days if wrapped and kept at room temperature.

Ingredients

1 mango
2 large, very ripe bananas
70ml organic rapeseed oil
80g soft brown sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
250g whole wheat flour
3 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp ground ginger
Pinch salt
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
Handful of banana chips (reserve some for the topping)
Demerara sugar, for topping (optional)

Directions

1.  Line a 12 x 20 cm loaf tin with baking paper.  Pre-heat the oven to 175°C.

2.  Chop the mango into about 1cm chunks.  Set aside.

3.  Using a fork, mash the bananas in a large mixing bowl.  Whisk in the oil, sugar and vanilla extract.

4.  Sift the flour, spices, salt and bicarbonate into the wet ingredients.  Tip the bran bits of the whole wheat flour in as well.  Stir together with a spoon until just combined.

5.  Add the chopped mango and crumbled banana chips, and fold in (don’t panic if it seems very dry).  Spread the batter evenly in the prepared loaf tin, and sprinkle with the sugar and a few more crumbled banana chips.  Bake for 45-50 mins, until lightly brown on top and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out just clean.  Allow to sit in the tin for 20 mins before turning out onto a wire rack to cool fully.

Enjoy!

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Baking muffins, the impractical way…

In my last post I declared that I was going to be blogging more regularly again, but that clearly hasn’t really happened…  I may have forgotten to factor in the fact that I don’t have internet at home yet.  A minor oversight there.  But, as I also mentioned in my last post, I have moved into my new flat!  Which means that I have a kitchen again, hurrah!  Unfortunately, the crockery and cookware that were supposed to come with the flat haven’t actually made it into the flat yet…  The estate agent was supposed to drop it all off the evening that I moved in, then the next day, then it transpired that the estate agent didn’t actually have any of it yet, so she ordered it online to be delivered to the flat.  Luckily, I came to NZ vaguely prepared: I brought a vegetable knife, a measuring cup, my oven gloves, my apron and my silicone muffin moulds with me in my suitcase.  I’m not kidding (don’t judge me).  My rather resourcefully-assembled breakfast on my first morning in my new flat looked something like this:

I have since managed to borrow a knife, fork, spoon, bowl and saucepan from somebody to tide me over. I missed the delivery on Wednesday because I had to go in to uni to do some really important stuff, like sitting an English test.  Yes, really.  I had to sit a compulsory English test.  Which showed that my “language skills are appropriate for university.”  I’d have thought that would be fairly obvious considering that I was recently awarded an undergraduate degree (which involved writing a dissertation) by a generally well-regarded English-speaking university, but I’ve now sat a slightly pointless computerised test to prove it.  Anyway, I digress.  I’ve been wanting to bake since I moved in, but I’m obviously a little bit limited at the moment.  Any sensible person would have waited until the delivery of all the kitchen stuff today…

But I do love a challenge.  I saw some beautiful mangoes a couple of days ago and decided that I absolutely wanted to bake with them.  Once I have an idea, I tend to want to try it out as soon as possible, so in the absence of any baking tins, my options were limited to using my silicone muffin moulds.  I decided to attempt mango and chocolate muffins.  I had originally intended to include nuts, too, but couldn’t find the ones I wanted.  When I’ve figured out where to get those from, I’ll try my original idea.  In the mean time, I’ll be munching on these, which came out totally delicious, somewhat against the odds.  They aren’t the most perfect-looking muffins I’ve ever made, but considering that it’s the first time that I’ve used my new oven (which seems to heat better than I was expecting) and I made up a large proportion of the recipe as I went along, I’m really pleased with how they came out… I also couldn’t sift the dry ingredients (I don’t have a sieve yet), so they were a little less fluffy than I’m used to, but they taste so fruity and wonderful.  I got much more flesh from the mango than I was expecting, so they’re actually about 40% mango, which makes the muffins wonderfully moist and adds a hint of juicy sweetness which is perfectly counter-balanced by the slightly bitter dark chocolate chips.  I can’t wait to make these again!  (I have another mango in the fridge, I’m seriously tempted…)

The sign in the shop where I got the mangoes from said they were from NZ, but I wasn’t aware that mangoes were grown in NZ and I have a suspicion that they’re actually from Peru…  So I’m not sure if they’re actually local or not, but they are definitely in season, so I’m submitting these to Fabulicious Food‘s Simple and in Season blog challenge, which I’ve missed for the last couple of months.

I’m also submitting these muffins to a new blog challenge that was started last month by Caroline Makes and The More Than Occasional Baker: Alphabakes.  The host randomly picks a letter of the alphabet, and participants have to come up with something which either features a main ingredient or is a type of baked good beginning with that letter.  This month’s host is Caroline Makes, and she has chosen the letter “M“.  Which is obviously an excellent choice of letter.  Not that I’m biased towards the letter of my first name or anything…  These mango and chocolate muffins satisfy both options – do I get bonus points?  Anyway, I shall stop rambling on – the above-mentioned English test obviously didn’t test my ability to be concise, because I’d clearly have failed it.

Mango & chocolate muffins

Makes 10-12 muffins
Adapted from Mad About Muffins

As mentioned above, this is the first time I’ve used this oven, and I had to eye-ball quite a few of the ingredients, so whilst the muffins turned out wonderfully for me, do bear that in mind!  As I don’t have any scales at the moment, I can’t tell you the weight of mango flesh that I used, but just play it by eye.  I had thought of roughly mashing about half the mango and leaving the other half diced, but I forgot about that when I was actually making them.  As with most muffins, these are best eaten within a day of baking.  They make great snacks, but also an excellent breakfast.

Ingredients

1 smallish mango
175g all-purpose flour
¾ tbsp baking powder
Pinch of salt
75g light muscovado sugar
100g unsalted butter
1 egg
125ml yoghurt
5 tbsp milk
75g chocolate chips

Directions

1.  Line 10-12 muffins tin sections with paper liners or set out silicone moulds on a baking tray.  Pre-heat the oven to 200°C/fan oven 180°C.

2.  Peel the mango and remove as much flesh as possible, dice the mango flesh and set aside.

3.  Sift the flour, baking powder, salt and sugar into a large bowl (you may need to push the sugar through with the back of a spoon).  Stir together.

4.  Melt the butter in a small saucepan or in the microwave.  Meanwhile, lightly beat the egg in a small bowl with a fork, then add the yoghurt and milk and mix together.

5.  Add all the wet ingredients, including the butter, to the dry ingredients and stir with a large metal spoon until just combined (don’t overmix – it’s perfect if you can still see a bit of flour).  Gently fold in the diced mango and chocolate chips.

6.  Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin tin sections.  Bake for 18-22 mins until well risen and golden and the tops spring back when lightly pressed (don’t press down on a chocolate chip though – they get really hot!).  Transfer to a wire rack to cool a little before eating.

Enjoy!

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Breakfast Club #18: Banana & hazelnut porridge

It seems that the only recipes getting posted this month are those that I’m submitting to blog challenges, and this one is no different.  But I have the excuse that I’m relocating to the other side of the world (in precisely two weeks today!!) so I’m a little bit busy with other things at the moment.  Today’s blog post is no different – it’s my entry to this month’s Breakfast Club, being hosted by Aimée at Food, Je t’Aimée, who has chosen the theme of “January detox” to compensate for all the Christmas over-indulgence.  Now, the thing I associate most with detox is a smoothie.  Probably because it’s usually packed full of fruit and super healthy.  But all the berries that I would normally look for in a smoothie are completely out of season and I really don’t like smoothies for breakfast anyway, mostly because I get hungry about an hour later.  So, I decided to go for something vaguely healthy but filling, which is always good, because it means you don’t snack before lunch.  And what could be more filling and wintery than porridge?

Using skimmed milk makes this porridge a little healthier, and the banana is a portion of fruit, which is always good.  The hazelnuts add a lovely little crunch, plus nuts are healthy (can you tell that being healthy isn’t my strong point?  Ya, nuts are healthy, there’s fruit, use skimmed milk: totally counts as a detox!).  If I’d been really organised, I could have tried this out for breakfast yesterday and posted it for Burns Night, since porridge is vaguely Scottish and all (as are bananas, ahem.  In some alternate universe…).  It would have been slightly less of a tenuous link than my honey, lemon and chocolate muffins for Chinese New Year.  But I wasn’t organised, and plus I’m not really a fan of Burns Night.  Well, that’s not really true, it’s an excellent excuse for a dinner party, but other than that, I’m not really going to go out of my way to celebrate it.  Anyway, I digress.  This made a rather delicious breakfast – porridge might not be your first choice for a detox, but at least you won’t be snacking before lunch, and it’s not a fatty or super-sugary breakfast either.  And it’s important to have a proper breakfast to start off the day anyway!

Banana & hazelnut porridge

Serves 1
Adapted from BBC Good Food

I used whole milk, but skimmed or semi-skimmed milk would work fine as well if you want to make the porridge slightly healthier.  Adding raisins or seasonal fruits at the end would work well, too, and up the fruit content.  Everybody likes their porridge to be a different level of sweetness, so the honey will be very much to your taste.

Ingredients

35g porridge oats
200ml milk
1 banana
1-2 tbsp chopped hazelnuts
Clear honey, to taste
Cinnamon, to taste

Directions

1.  Thinly slice the banana.

2.  Add the oats and milk to a small saucepan, along with half the sliced banana and simmer over a gentle heat, stirring occasionally (apparently stirring anti-clockwise brings bad luck – I haven’t tested the theory, but you’ve been warned, duhn duhn duhn…) until thickened to your liking.

3.  Remove from the heat, pour into a bowl, top with the remaining banana slices, a drizzle of honey, the chopped hazelnuts and a light dusting of cinnamon.

Enjoy!

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Pumpkin & cream cheese muffins

It’s been a couple of months since I’ve taken part in the Breakfast Club blog challenge.  There’s no particular reason for this – I can hardly say that I’ve been too busy, and I’ve certainly not stopped eating breakfast or anything ridiculous like that.  Perhaps I’ve just been lacking in inspiration a bit…  Whatever the reason, I decided to get my act together and get back into the challenge, because it’s always good to keep breakfast interesting!  The current challenge is being hosted by Sarah at A little bit of heaven on a plate…, and she has chosen “Stars and Stripes” as the theme.

Now I’d say that the US is pretty big on breakfast, so I felt rather spoilt for choice.  To me, the most utterly American breakfast just has to be blueberry pancakes – they just scream USA.  But it’s not exactly blueberry season, so I had to come up with something else…  We lived in the US for four years when I was little, and for some reason, I always associate pumpkins with the US.  Something to do with the whole pumpkin-carving tradition at Halloween perhaps, and enforced by the almost constant presence of pumpkin pie between Halloween and Thanksgiving?  Who knows why I associate anything pumpkin-related with the US, but I do.  So I thought about making pumpkin pancakes for breakfast.  Of course, if I was going to go all-out American, the obvious thing to do would be to use tinned pumpkin (Libby’s, of course), but aside from not having any, I decided that I’d feel a bit silly using tinned pumpkin when it’s actually pumpkin season.  I do try to use seasonal ingredients as much as possible, so fresh pumpkin was really the only option.  This also means that I could submit this recipe to the Simple and in Season blog event over at Fabulicious Food.  So I acquired an adorable little pumpkin and set about roasting it, ready to use in some pumpkin pancakes

Now, you’ve probably noticed that the photos in this post are quite clearly not pancakes.  Not even pancakes gone horribly, horribly wrong.  And you’d be correct, because you see, whilst planning my pancakes, I may have gotten ever so slightly distracted by a muffin recipe…  A rather delicious-sounding recipe for pumpkin muffins with a surprise layer of cream cheese hidden inside.  Luckily, I also consider muffins to be a totally American thing to have for breakfast (although I feel they should be jumbo muffins – unfortunately I don’t have any large muffin moulds or tins, so I just had to make normal-sized ones), so I scrapped the pancake plan and made pumpkin and cream cheese muffins instead.  How did they turn out?  Delicious!  They’re wonderfully moist and have a strong pumpkin flavour which goes beautifully with the surprise cream cheese layer.  Basically, they taste like pumpkin pie, but in a muffin.  Being muffins, they’re also easy to eat whilst travelling, and I had several of these for breakfast whilst on the bus to St Andrews on Friday morning.  They made an excellent start to a wonderful little two-day trip!

Pumpkin & cream cheese muffins

Makes 6-7 muffins
Adapted from Eat Good 4 Life

I used homemade pumpkin purée by mashing-up some pumpkin that I roasted the other day, but tinned pumpkin would probably work just as well.  The chopped pecans sprinkled over the top are completely optional, but add a lovely crunch to the muffin – the original recipe called for pumpkin seeds which I’m sure would also work really well.  As with all muffins, these don’t store all that well, but they’ll be perfectly fine for breakfast if made the evening before and stored in an airtight box.

Ingredients

For the muffins:
60g cream cheese
20g icing sugar
90g whole wheat bread flour
¼ tsp bicarbonate of soda
¾ tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp ground nutmeg
¼ tsp ground ginger
¼ tsp ground cloves
130g pumpkin purée
1 egg
65g unrefined granulated sugar
30 ml milk
60 ml olive oil
¼ tsp vanilla essence

For the topping:
A few pecan halves (optional)
2 tbsp unrefined granulated sugar
½ tsp ground cinnamon

Directions

1.  Line a muffin tin with liners or set out silicon liners on a baking tray.  Pre-heat the oven to 175°C.

2.  In a small bowl, whisk together the cream cheese and icing sugar, and set aside.

3.  Sift the flour, bicarbonate of soda and spices together into a bowl, and mix together.

4.  In a separate bowl, beat together the pumpkin purée, egg, sugar, milk, olive oil and vanilla essence.  Once the wet ingredients are well mixed together, stir in the dry ingredients using a metal spoon until just combined.

5.  Add about half a tablespoon of pumpkin mixture to each muffin liner (make sure that the mixture covers the bottom but that there is enough left to cover the cream cheese layer).  Add a dollop of cream cheese in each liner on top of the pumpkin layer.  Split the remaining pumpkin mixture between the liners, making sure to completely cover the cream cheese layer.  For the topping, mix the sugar and cinnamon in a small ramekin.  Roughly chop the pecans and sprinkle evenly over the muffins, followed by the cinnamon sugar.

6.  Bake for 20-25 mins, until golden.  Allow to cool in the tin for a few mins before turning out onto a wire rack to cool.

Enjoy!

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