Thursday, 4 July 2013

Gooseberry Muffins - a Delight and so Easy to Make

Since it's very much the gooseberry season around these parts, and we've done the crumble, I woke this morning with the thought that gooseberry muffins might be worth a try. By 9am the recipe was written and the muffins cooked and photographed. See me move!

I think they turned out really well, and the quantities given in the recipe made 12 medium muffins. Used always to use paper muffin cases, but they often stuck and were hard to remove without taking a chunk of the muffin with them. Finally got round to buying a set of twelve medium silicone cases (from Tu at Sainsbury's as it goes), and now I'll never go back to paper.

Once the gooseberries are washed and topped and tailed - with scissors is easiest - the method takes about 15 minutes. And there's NO RUBBING IN and you don't need a food processor. So including baking, only around 30-35 minutes is needed from start to ready. They're lovely warm from the oven.
170g plain flour
2 level tsp baking powder
Quarter tsp salt
80g sugar (gran is fine)
1 egg
150ml milk
50g butter, just melted (e.g. in microwave)
180g gooseberries (prepared as above)

12 medium muffin cases should be ready; if paper, use a bun tin to keep their shape but if silicon, just arrange them on a baking sheet. Oven should be at 170C.

1  Place the flour, baking powder, salt & sugar in a medium bowl and mix well.
2  Add the gooseberries and mix so they're coated in flour.
3  Beat the egg lightly in a small bowl, them stir in the milk and melted butter.
4  Add the egg mixture to the flour mix and stir briefly but quickly so that no 
          lumps of flour are visible.
5  Use a spoon to drop the mixture cleanly into the cases, filling them about half 
          to three-quarters full and making sure each has its share of fruit.
6  Bake in the centre of the oven for 15-18 minutes until browning nicely. 
          They're done when a skewer pushed in from the side comes out clean.

Of course other fruits can be used, e.g. blueberries, dried or fresh cranberries, raspberries and so on, though if the fruit used is sweet, 20g less sugar will be needed. For me, this recipe is a definite keeper for my 'special tried and tested' recipes folder. Nerd.

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

13 Time-Saving Thoughts for Cooks

Thirteen is my luckiest number, so here are that many ways of saving a little time in the kitchen. If, like me, you're often prepping food in a rush, there might be something here which is worth a go.

 1  Salad dressing: put all ingredients into a small jam jar, seal and shake vigorously (the 
         jar that is). Will keep well in the fridge for a while.

 2  Grate cheese onto a piece of kitchen paper or greaseproof (rather than a chopping 
         board), then fold and pour.
Strawberry huller
 3  Prep strawberries just before they're needed: use a huller (cheap like the one above, or
         slightly smarter, e.g. from Lakeland), then wash.

 4  If spreading Marmite in baking, for example onto puff pastry, put the required amount
         into a small microwaveable bowl and microwave for 10 seconds. It'll be runnier
         and easier to spread, and will go further - usually needs to be used sparingly anyway.
 5  Use scissors to top & tail gooseberries. If they have that mildew thing, soak in water
         for a while then just rub the skins clear. Scissors are also quickest for 'chopping'
         herbs or dried chillies.

 6  To skin tomatoes quickly, slash the skins a couple of times then put into a bowl of
         just-boiled water for a couple of minutes. The flesh expands and, hopefully, bursts
         out of the skins.

 7  When a cooked dish needs reheating in the oven (e.g. pastry based which would go
         soggy in the microwave), it's still worth microwaving for a couple of minutes while
         the oven heats up - saves quite a useful amount of time.
 8  Freeze freshly washed (and patted dry) mint, thyme, sage or parsley leaves whole.
        When needed, take the amount out and just crumble it straight away.

 9  If freezing a large quantity of fresh veg, prepare the approx number of freezer bags first.
         Put the portion size you want in a bag and weigh it, then duplicate the weight for
         other bags until all the veg is packed. Saves time judging the portion each time.

10 I've mentioned this one before: when a recipe says to rub butter into flour, I find it still
         works if you use melted butter from the microwave and just mix it into the flour. If
         you try this, it might be best to experiment first! It can same time, effort and mess.

11 An oldie but worth a mention: when cooking on the hob, use a lid. Boils more quickly
         and needs slightly lower heat to maintain cooking, saving time and fuel.
12 Use a potato peeler to make ribbons from courgettes, then marinade them in dressing -
         no need to cook. Same for raw, peeled carrots.

13 To make biscuit crumbs, for example for a cheesecake or banoffee pie, put the whole
         biscuits into a large polythene bag and use a rolling pin to crush. Quicker than
         getting out the blender then washing and putting it away.

So that's my thirteen. If you carry out each one just once, you should save enough time to make a lemon drizzle cake. That's what I'd do.