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Spicy Carrot Muffins With Frosting

Carrot muffin with frostingCarrot cakes have long been one of my favourites to have when out at a café, although I’ve never thought to try making it myself at home. Muffins have long been one of the few types of baked goods I feel confident at baking, but after playing around with different berries and chocolates and spices, I was starting to wonder how I could make them a bit more exciting. Then along comes this fantastic idea of combining a carrot cake and a muffin and it was too good to refuse.

I tried one in town and we set about finding recipes that would help us to make our own versions of it. As always, I found myself tweaking the recipe and fixing some glaring errors in the ones we found so that we’ve ended up with something perhaps more unique anyway. Still, it is quite easy to make but is a little more time and energy consuming that your average muffin – but well worth it in the end! These turned out to be the best muffins we’ve ever made, and I do mean we as my kitchen-shy girlfriend helped out a lot!

Ingredients:

For the muffins:

  • 1 1/2 carrots (just get 2, you’ll need the other half later anyway), peeled and finely grated
  • 100g softened butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 4/5 cup (200ml) sugar
  • 2/5 cup (100ml) milk
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice (we used a citrus juice that was lemon and lime and it turned out fine)
  • 1 3/5 cup (400ml) wholemeal flour (it’s very important you use wholemeal and not just normal flour – this is part of the taste)
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp cardamom
  • 2 tsp baking powder

For the frosting:

  • 100g cream cheese (Philadelphia is fine)
  • 75g softened butter
  • 1 cup icing sugar
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 1/2 carrot (the other half from earlier), peeled and finely grated

Method:

  1. Warm up the oven to 200 degrees Celsius (390 F), or a little bit less if using a fan forced oven.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, cream the sugar (not the icing sugar) and 100g of butter by hand with a wooden spoon (I won’t lie, we used a fork). Add eggs one by one, mixing each thoroughly. Add milk, mix well. Add lemon juice, mix well.
  3. In another bowl, mix together remaining dry ingredients for the muffins – the wholemeal flour, cinnamon, cardamom, baking powder and carrots. Once mixed together, add to wet ingredients and mix together well but don’t over-stir. If too dry, add a splash more milk (though these measurements worked perfectly for us – you don’t want it too wet either).
  4. Line a muffin tray with cases and fill up each case two thirds full with the mixture. It should spread evenly for 12 muffins. Place in oven for 15 minutes (I know, it doesn’t sound like much but it is long enough – check with a skewer in the middle to see if it comes out clean if you want to be sure). Pull out of oven, after a few minutes remove muffins from tray and let cool with a towel over to keep fresh.
    Carrot muffins no icing
  5. While the muffins are baking/cooling, make the frosting. Quite simply mix all the frosting ingredients together in a bowl and stir thoroughly – start with the icing sugar and butter and then add the cheese, then carrots and lemon juice. Once combined well, cover the bowl and place in fridge while the muffins cool. By the time the muffins are properly cool, the frosting will be ready to spread over each muffin with a butter knife.
  6. The muffins are now ready to eat, but whereas most muffins are nicer warmed up these ones are much tastier when they have been placed in the fridge for a few hours. The second day after baking was when these muffins tasted the nicest, in my opinion. Either way, keep them in the fridge to make them last longer. Enjoy!

Let me know if you make these muffins – I’d be curious to see what others think of this recipe!

 
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Posted by on February 6, 2015 in Baking

 

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Cinnamon Raisin Bread

Cinnamon and Raisin BreadThere is approximately a million recipes for this delicious bread, which was quite daunting when I first set out to try making this myself. However, this particular one I used with a few tweaks turned out very good. I was actually quite surprised at how well it turned out, if I have to be honest – my terrible photography skills don’t do this loaf justice!

This bread is delicious just eating it on its own or toasting and buttering it. If kept in good and dry storage it should last at least a couple of days (although mine didn’t last that long due to how good it tasted, but I’m just guessing some of you have this self-control thing I’ve heard so much about). Anyway, on with the recipe! This will make one loaf, and will take about 3 and a half hours with 1 and a half hours of active time.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup milk (plus another 2 teaspoons later on)
  • 1/3 cup warm (110F/45C) water (warming it up on the stove top is the easier way – alternatively, boil the kettle and let the water rest a while)
  • 2 teaspoons dry yeast
  • 1 egg
  • 3 tablespoons of white sugar (plus another 1/4 cup (about 4 tablespoons) more later on)
  • 1/4 teaspoon of salt
  • 3 tablespoons of softened margarine or butter (I used margarine)
  • 1/3 cup raisins
  • 3 cups of all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons of completely melted butter or margarine

Method:

  1. Warm the milk in a small saucepan until it bubbles, then remove and set aside until it is only lukewarm.
  2. Dissolve the yeast in warm water in the bottom of a mixing bowl and set aside until it is frothy. Mix in egg, 3 tablespoons of white sugar, 3 tablespoons of softened margarine/butter, salt and raisins. Stir in cooled milk. Add the flour gradually, the dough should be fairly stiff in the end.
  3. Knead the dough on a lightly floured surface for a few minutes. Place in a large, greased mixing bowl and turn to grease the surface of the dough. Cover with a damp cloth. Leave to rise until roughly doubled in size (maybe an hour or two).
  4. Roll out onto a lightly flowered surface so that the dough is a large rectangle about 1/2 inch (bit over 1 cm) thick, and one side is roughly the length of your loaf pan that you’ll be baking it in. Using a brush, moisten the dough with the 2 teaspoons of milk.
    dough
  5. Mix together the 1/4 cup of sugar and two teaspoons of cinnamon. Sprinkle the mixture evenly on top of the moistened dough – it should thoroughly cover just about the whole thing. If you feel like you’re putting too much on, you’re probably not. Don’t panic. Once done, roll up tightly – the roll should be about 3 inches (7.5 cm) in diameter. Tuck under the ends (or just smoosh them together like I did), then place into a well greased loaf pan. Grease the top of the loaf, then let rise for another hour.
  6. Bake at 350 degrees F (175 C) for 45 minutes, or until the loaf is lightly browned and sounds hollow when knocked. Remove loaf from pan, brush it with melted butter or margarine, then let it cool a little before slicing. Although, don’t let it cool too much – eating it while it is quite warm and fresh is when it’s the best!

And that’s it, really! It sounds hard, it might even look a little hard, but it’s not hard. Time consuming, maybe, but I think the end result is well worth it.

Let me know if you try it, or if you have made something similar to this – I’d love to hear from you!

 
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Posted by on January 23, 2015 in Baking, Breads

 

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The Best Potato Wedges Ever!

Best Potato WedgesThat is probably a bit of a big call to make, but I am quite certain I have finally got the recipe and method perfect for making the best home-made wedges. How certain? Well, I’ve had them 3 times within 24 hours – that’s how certain I am about this recipe.

When done properly, they should be slightly crispy on the outside but soft on the inside. They should also be a little spicy and have a bit of a bite to them, which makes it extra nice to serve them up with sweet chilli sauce and sour cream as a dip. It is up to you what potatoes you use – I went for white potatoes that are normally recommended for turning into mashed potato, on the (correct) assumption that they would be softer inside. But I think most kinds of potatoes would work just fine! Now, on with the recipe:

Ingredients:

  • Potatoes (obviously). About 4 or 5 medium potatoes per person should be enough for a full meal, or less if it is just a snack at a party. Whatever you do, do not peel them. Leave the skin on. Trust me, in this case it is tastier.
  • Lots of olive oil – I use about 1-2 tablespoons per serve.
  • Paprika
  • Cayenne Pepper
  • Black Pepper Mix
  • Ground Garlic
  • I also use a barbeque spice seasoning that includes salt, paprika, coriander, onion, mustard powder, chilli, basil, pepper, rosemary, thyme, oregano and celery root all ground up. I mean, you could buy them separately of course, and the ingredients here I have already mentioned should be doubled up (as in, still add in extra paprika etc), but a mix similar to this will get the job done.

Method:

  1. Turn the oven on to 150C (300F) or if you don’t have fan forced 160C (320F). This might not sound very hot, but the trick to making wedges perfect is to cook them slowly at a lower heat. If you cook them at a too high temperature, they burn on the outside while not cooking properly on the inside.
  2. Take each potato lengthways and cut it into 8 parts by halving it, then halving it again, and then one last time. A bit like this:
    wedged up potatoes
  3. Now, in a mixing bowl, mix the oil and the spices together. Use lots of spices – don’t be afraid here. Throw the uncooked wedges into the bowl. Using your hands, rotate the wedges around the bowl making sure the top wedges move down to the bottom. Do this for a good minute until all the wedges are thoroughly coated in oil and spice.
    spiced oil mix
  4. Arrange the wedges in a single layer on a baking tray. Make sure there are no wedges sitting on top of one another, so that they all cook properly. If you want, add more spices to them.
    wedges on tray
  5. Cook the wedges for 30-40 minutes, turning them over at least once every 10 minutes.
  6. Serve with sweet chilli sauce and sour cream and enjoy! Just be careful because they are VERY hot when you first take them out (not that it stops me from burning my mouth ever).

Let me know how it goes if you try to make these! I would love to hear from you! And if you have a better (or different) recipe for wedges I would love to hear from you as well!

 
 

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Cauliflower, chickpea and potato curry

This is a delicious vegetarian meal that tasted a lot better than I expected. The cauliflower absorbs the flavour of the curry, while the other vegetables add a heartiness to fill up even the hungriest customers.

There’s a lot of different takes on this meal on many different blogs and recipe sites, but this is my interpretation of it. Most versions include just the cauliflower and chickpeas as the main vegetables. I added the potato to make the meal a bit heartier, and then used diced tomatoes and tomato juice to mix with the curry paste, which worked surprisingly well. There’s quite a lot of ways to vary this meal too, but I’ll suggest those at the end.

Cauliflower, chickpea and potato curry

Prep time: About 10-15 minutes

Cooking time: 30-45 minutes

Makes 4 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon of oil (preferably olive oil)
  • 1 small brown onion, finely chopped
  • 2-3 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 6-8 medium potatoes, peeled, chopped into quite big chunks (2-3cm, or 1 inch)
  • 1 cauliflower, washed and cut into florets
  • 2-3 tablespoons Red Curry paste (this is very flexible and really just according to taste)
  • 1 400g carton of chickpeas (rinsed)
  • 1 400g carton of diced tomatoes in juice
  • 1/2 cup of fresh coriander
  • Any other spices you want to add – for this dish I would add chilli flakes, ground cayenne pepper, black peppers and maybe a bit of paprika also.

Method:

  1. You’ll first need to boil up the potatoes in a saucepan to soften them. They don’t need to be full cooked – they can be finished in the curry. But once the water is brought to the boil, let it simmer at a lower temperature for a good 15-20 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, in another saucepan, fry up the onion and garlic on a medium temperature for a few minutes until they soften.
  3. Add the curry paste, fry it just briefly (and enjoy that amazing aroma).
  4. Add the diced tomatoes and juice to the mix. Stir everything together well. If the mixture ends up too thin later, you can always add tomato paste or if all else fails some cornflour (dissolve it in water first though). You will probably find the mixture will thicken naturally anyway.
  5. Add the cauliflower to the mixture. Add the potato and any other spices you want to add (but not the coriander).
  6. After 5 minutes, add the chickpeas. Bring the temperature down low and let simmer for 5 to 10 minutes, stirring regularly.
  7. Serve up in bowls. You can have this with rice or without – I found it was perfectly filling without rice, actually.
  8. Garnish with the coriander leaves and enjoy!

There are so many ways you could play with this recipe. You could change the brown onion for red if you wanted more of a bite. You could change the potato for another vegetable – I think sweet potato could be really interesting in this recipe as well. Just try to pick a vegetable that doesn’t have too strong a flavour. You could use something other than tomatoes too – you could go for coconut milk if you wanted a more traditional curry. The main component of this recipe is the cauliflower – without that it’s just not the same.

Let me know if you make this and tell me how it goes! I’d love to hear from you! 

 
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Posted by on December 11, 2014 in Curry, Dinner, Vegetarian

 

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Pancakes with home-made chocolate sauce

For my first recipe, I thought I’d start with the first meal of the day. A bowl of cereal and milk was probably a little bit obvious so I have decided to share my recipe (well, half my recipe – the sauce is my girlfriend’s clever and spontaneous idea) for pancakes with home-made chocolate sauce which I may or may not have had for breakfast the last two days in a row.

Pancakes and chocolate sauce

Pancakes are super easy to make from scratch and taste a million times better than anything you can get fully or partially pre-made. This is fairly well known but if you are somebody who has only bought the pancake mixes ready made before then I urge you to try and make this recipe – you won’t regret it! With this chocolate sauce made fresh, this goes from a simple but nice breakfast to a meal of luxury that is bound to start your day on the right foot!

The Pancakes:

Ingredients:

  • 200ml or 4/5 cup of buttermilk (if you don’t have buttermilk, substitute it by adding 2 tablespoons of vinegar or lemon juice to plain milk and leave it for 10 minutes to sour on its own)
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tablespoons butter (melted)
  • 1 cup flour
  • 2 tablespoons of sugar
  • 2 teaspoons of baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract (or 1 teaspoon of vanilla sugar)
  • 1/4 teaspoon of salt

Method:

  1. Combine buttermilk (or substitute as explained in ingredients list) with the egg and butter in a small bowl. Whisk until combined.
  2. In a mixing bowl, combine all dry ingredients and mix together properly.
  3. Add in milk mixture to dry ingredients. Mix well, making sure to scrape any dry ingredients from the bottom of the bowl. However, be careful not to whisk too much or the pancakes will become dense. It should look slightly lumpy and frothy – that is normal.
  4. Leave mixture for 30 minutes. Do not stir again.
  5. Coat frying pan with cooking spray (or just put oil in the pan and use a bit of paper towel to spread it around – just don’t burn yourself!). Heat it to a medium heat – much more and you might burn the pancakes, any less and they won’t cook at all.
  6. Depending on how big you like the pancakes, empty 1/4 cup to 1/2 cup of mixture onto the pan at a time (I prefer bigger myself).
  7. When the top starts to bubble, the bottom will likely be browned. Flip and cook until the other side is also golden.
  8. Remove and serve with the chocolate sauce. This recipe should make between 5 and 10 pancakes depending on size.

The Chocolate Sauce

The chocolate sauce is something you will want to whip up while you’re making the pancakes. If you have somebody to assist you, that will definitely be a help, but it’s not impossible to do both at the same time. One good thing is that this sauce recipe is very flexible – you can change it to suit your own tastes. If you want it sweeter, add more sugar and honey (yes, we added honey to this too). If you want it more chocolatey, add more cocoa. The following is just a rough guide. Also I must give credit to my girlfriend who made this up on the spot yesterday – and she thinks she can’t cook either! Hah!

Ingredients:

  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 150ml or 3/5 cup of milk
  • 3 tablespoons cocoa
  • 4 tablespoons sugar
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • A dash of salt
  • 1 tablespoon honey (optional)

Method:

  1. Melt the butter in a saucepan. When it has melted, add the milk and stir together and bring the heat up.
  2. Next, add the dry ingredients one by one. It doesn’t matter too much which order you do them in, although I would add the cocoa first, then the sugar, then the flour before finishing off with the salt and honey. After you add each ingredient make sure you stir it in well.
  3. Taste to see if it tastes right to you. We liked the honey because it gave the sauce a syrupy feel, but you might like it just fine without that. Add ingredients until it’s perfect for you and hot enough, continuing to stir it so it doesn’t burn.
  4. Serve with pancakes (or, you know, whatever else you want to serve it with. I imagine it would go well with ice cream too. In fact I plan to never buy pre-made chocolate sauce ever again).

And that’s it really. Simple but incredibly tasty.

If you make either of these components of this recipe I would love to hear from you! How did it go? Did you change any parts of the recipe?

 
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Posted by on December 6, 2014 in Breakfast, Chocolate

 

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A big welcome to fellow lovers of food!

First of all, before I talk about this blog or who I am and all that jazz, if you came here looking for information on cacti you have probably come to the wrong place (no seriously, there is another website that roughly shares the name of this blog that is dedicated to cacti – who knew there was so much to know about the odd little plants).

I’ve been wanting to start a food blog for quite a while. Some of you may know me from my other blogs, most notably Wanton Creation where under the name of The Other Watson (my real first name is Matt, by the way, not The Other) I have spent three years writing about books, writing, NaNoWriMo, music, comedy, and more recently travel and really whatever I feel like. I intend to keep that blog going of course, but this year since relocating from Australia to Sweden I have spent a lot of time teaching myself to cook proper food and even to bake from time to time.

What I’ve found, since I started to teach myself the ways of the kitchen, is that it’s really not that hard. I’m not a chef at all (I did work for two weeks and half a day in a Japanese restaurant in Sydney, when I was only 18…I had never cooked in my life back then, so it didn’t take me long before I decided that kind of workplace was not for me). I never did any kind of cooking class when I was younger and my parents never taught me how to cook much about from cooking meat on a barbeque (which, to give them credit where it’s due, is one skill I have flaunted on many social occasions since).

It turns out you don’t need to be a good cook to, well, be a good cook. I think it is important to love food, and to love good food at that. I know I have spent a lot of these first ten years of my adult life eating at all sorts of different restaurants, befriending many people who can cook amazing food. I’ve been open minded and tried (and loved) so many foods I never thought I would. This year, having made a lot of new friends who are vegetarians, I’ve learned that you can make amazing vegetarian meals that actually taste good even if you’re the sort of person who eats meat twice a day (the trick here is to not try and replace the meat, which is what too many people do).

A lot of the time, I just make meals up. I’m sure some of you do this as well and possibly these are the best meals you make. Even when I follow recipes, I don’t follow them at all. I end up changing half the ingredients, adding things in that were never there and just doing what I like with it. I also tend to take twice as long as the recipe says I will. What I’ve realised is that this is the best way to cook. Experiment with food! Be willing to try new things, at the risk of utter failure! That’s what being an amateur is all about!

I’m hoping there will be something on this blog for everyone, in due time. I want to have simple meals on here that literally anybody can make, no matter how much you think you hate cooking. I also do want to include the occasional harder meal, for those who are looking for something a little more challenging. A lot of the food I put on here will look and sound fancy, but will really be very simple to make. I’ll also be including all kinds of cuisines, featuring cooking and baking from around the world.

So get your knives and forks ready and stay tuned! My plan is to put up a couple of recipes per week, the first one going up within the next day or two at the most. And if you make any of my recipes, I’d love to hear from you about how it went and if you changed anything. In fact, I encourage you to change my recipes to suit yourself – if we all followed the same recipes it would make cooking very dull, would it not?

Bon appétit!

 
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Posted by on December 6, 2014 in General

 

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