Tag Archives: lemons

Gin and tonic muffins

12 May

It was bound to happen one day. I have a bottle of Caorunn Gin on the counter in my kitchen. And it was inevitable that one day while I was baking, the urge would become too great and I would end up with gin and tonic flavoured baked goods.

Yesterday was that day. But first of all let me tell you a wee bit about Caorunn Gin. It’s Scottish, and it’s delicious. That’s almost all you need to know, but not quite. It’s a small batch gin, and infused with the most deliciously delicate array of botanicals: rowanberry, heather, bog myrtle, dandelion and coul blush apple. And you drink it with a slice of apple, not lime or cucumber or even lemon. And preferably Fentiman’s tonic. It’s my gin of choice these days, although I’m sure I could be persuaded to drink almost any other brand if necessary.

But back to the baking. I’d decided on muffins. And then I had narrowed it down to lemon muffins. With poppy seeds. Well, I thought I’d narrowed it down to that, but clearly I hadn’t… my baking muse was still playing with me. As I grated the lemon zest into the mix it dawned on me that gin and tonic was what these wee muffins really needed (I had already decided they were going to be mini muffins).

And so the gin and tonic muffin was born. I really do fear that this could start a whole load of crazy cocktail themed baking. Ah well…

Gin and Tonic Muffins

Prepare muffin tins (I used teeny weeny ones, and regular ones, and this batter made 24 wee ones plus 6 regular) and preheat oven to 375-400F / 190-200C / Gas 5-6

  • 9oz plain flour
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • a pinch of Maldon sea salt
  • 3oz caster sugar
  • 2-3 TBsp poppy seeds
  • 1 egg
  • 1tsp grated lemon zest
  • 3 fl oz sunflower oil
  • 4 fl oz cloudy apple juice
  • 4 fl oz gin and tonic (mostly tonic, but a good slug of gin)
  1. Sift the flour, baking powder, salt and sugar into a large bowl. 
  2. Stir in the poppy seeds
  3. In a separate bowl, beat the egg
  4. Add in the lemon zest, oil, apple juice and gin and tonic, and beat together
  5. Pour the wet mix into the dry stuff and mix all together – you don’t want to beat it, but just bring it together, making sure there are no pockets of flour
  6. Spoon into tins and bake for 20 – 25 mins (slightly less for the mini ones)
These would work well with a wee cream cheese icing (with some gin and tonic in it) or with an icing glaze, made with icing sugar and apple juice and a hint of gin. They seemed to rise more than usual almost like a souffle which I think must be down to the fizzy tonic.
And if you’re not using Caorunn, you might want to use a different fruit juice, such as orange or perhaps grapefruit. Mind you, the grapefruit might do weird things to the raising agent? I’ve not tried it, so don’t blame me if it goes wrong!
You might want to look at some of my other recipes, there’s lots of homebaking, and a bit of preserving, and various main courses. Anyway, have a browse here and if you have any questions, just get in touch, I’d love to hear from you.

Springtime apple cake

5 May

Yes, I know apples aren’t a very springtime fruit, but I don’t seem to have anything local and seasonal in the fruit department yet. No rhubarb, no Scottish berries, not even a British apple to be had in my local supermarket today. Yes, I know, I should have shopped at the farmers’ market – but I needed to do one of those monster shops, with all sorts of store cupboard and cleaning staples, so the supermarket got my custom today.

It’s a glorious sunny day today here in the Clyde valley. Glorious and sunny in that peculiarly Scottish way of also being what you might call ‘a bit fresh’. I call it chilly. So I pootled about for a few minutes in the garden, just to check that everything was doing as it should, then watered everything in the deliciously warm greenhouse, and then decided it was time to bake a cake.

I’d thought of a hazelnut sort of a cake, but had no hazelnuts in the cupboard so that wasn’t going to happen. Then I’d thought of something with some lemon for springtime zestiness, some ground almonds for moistness, and perhaps an apple or two just for fun.

So, here we have it Springtime Apple Cake

Preheat your oven to 160C / Gas 4

Grease a 23cm deep cake tin

  • 3 apples – I used braeburns, and it will need something with a bit of crunch to it, and a slight sharpness. Cooking apples would be fine too
  • Zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • 225g golden caster sugar
  • 225g softened butter
  • 3 medium eggs
  • 200g SR flour
  • 50g ground almonds
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  1. Peel and dice the apples, into wee chunks, about 1cm max. Drop them in a bowl with the lemon juice and stir them up a wee bit to coat them all in juice – this will stop them going brown while you do the rest of the cake making. It’ll give a nice zesty flavour too
  2. Beat the butter, sugar and lemon zest together till you get a good light fluff of a mixture
  3. Add the eggs one at a time. Add a wee bit of flour after each egg if the mixture is showing signs of splitting
  4. Fold in the sifted dry ingredients
  5. Stir in the apple chunks
  6. Dollop the mixture into the cake tin, and level the mixture.
  7. Cook for about an hour. If it smells too burny burny, then put it onto a lower shelf, or cover it with greaseproof paper to stop the top burning.
  8. To test if it’s ready, insert a skewer into the middle of the cake and pull it out again. If it’s covered in soft cake batter it’s not ready, if it’s clean it’s ready. Yay!
  9. Cool in the tin for about 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack.
  10. Dredge with caster sugar, and serve warm with creme fraiche. Or on its own.

You may be interested to know that if you are counting weightwatcher points (as I am currently) then if you slice this cake into 10 pieces (which I think is easily do-able) each slice has 9 points. That’s without your dollop of creme fraiche. An apple with no cake wrapped round it would be 0 points. But where would the fun be in that?

Enjoy!

The most delicious blackcurrant recipe ever

9 Oct

Earlier this year we had a glut of blackcurrants.  I picked them on a Sunday in the sunshine, cutting whole branches from the bushes and then sitting in the sun on the terrace picking off the juicy black fruit.  Over 9lbs of fruit, all topped and tailed (not that they needed any topping, or was it tailing) and stored in plastic tubs in the freezer till I had more time to turn them into loveliness.

Blackcurrant harvest

This weekend was the time.  And the loveliness was Blackcurrant Ripple Icecream.  Why have I never made this before?  It’s amazing and oh so simple.  Thanks to Xanthe Clay and the BBC Good Food website for this deliciousness.  I’ve slightly altered the recipe, but literally only slightly.  You can find the original and a gorgeous picture here http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/11802/blackcurrant-ripple-ice-cream

Blackcurrant ripple icecream

200g blackcurrants (if frozen, leave them out for a while to defrost)

50ml apple juice

100g golden caster sugar

600ml double cream

large tin condensed milk

2 tsp vanilla extract

  1. Put the currants and the apple juice in a large heavy-bottomed pan and gently heat
  2. Simmer for about 5 minutes and then add the sugar
  3. Heat gently again and bring back to a simmer, stirring all the while to ensure the sugar all dissolves
  4. Simmer for a further 4-5 minutes, till it gets beautifully syrupy.  Don’t be too precious about the timings here, but you don’t want to reduce this right down, just make a lovely rich sauce for the ripple
  5. Now, take it off the heat and let it cool for a while.  A long while – it needs to be properly cool.
  6. Rub the sauce through a sieve to get rid of all the pips
  7. Now, leave that to one side while you make the icecream
  8. Pour the cream into a big bowl and whisk up to soft peaks
  9. Add the condensed milk and vanilla and whisk again to soft peaks
  10. That’s pretty much it.
  11. Find a freezer proof tub to put the ice cream in.  Pour the creamy ice cream in, then the sauce… swirl it a wee bit with a palette knife, or big spoon.  Try to get into the corners, but don’t mix too much – you’re looking for a rippled, or marbled, effect not a homogeneous mixture.
  12. Freeze.. for at least a couple of hours, but preferably longer.  It will probably need to come out of the freezer for a while before you serve it as it’s quite a solid ice cream, so take it out when you start your main course.

Enjoy.  Delicious with langues du chat biscuits, or similar.  Oh, did I mention I also made the most scrumptious langues du chat this weekend? The Great British Bake Off has been inspiring me!

As an alternative, make up the ice cream mixture and fold in either shop bought or homemade lemon curd.  I don’t know why you’d buy it, it’s simple to make and so much tastier when it’s not packed full of preservatives (and when was it ever going to last 6 months in our house anyway?).  But as I was saying, this ice cream is just delicious as a lemon ripple instead of blackcurrant ripple.  Try it.  Next I’m thinking of a butterscotch ripple, but suspect it will be too sweet – you need the sharpness of the lemons or blackcurrants to cut through the soft sweetness of the condensed milk in the ice cream.

Or, if you want to make Blackcurrant Cordial, or an alcoholic Blackcurrant Liqueur, then take a look at how I do it here.

 

Lemon kisses

11 Sep

It’s Autumn. It has to be – it’s Sunday and we lit the fire mid morning and just hung around and read the papers.

The Sunday Times is our paper of choice; well it’s his paper of choice and I really don’t mind.  I love AA Gill‘s writing and generally read most of the main paper, the news review section and one or two of the features in the magazine.

So far today all I’ve managed is the main paper, until I got too cross about the article on obesity – GPs are offering people gastric band surgery, and the mayor of somewhere or other says that poor people can only afford junk food.  A gastric band should not and must not be seen as an easy solution to obesity – sensible eating and taking more exercise have to come first.  And anyone who believes that junk food is cheaper than fresh food should actually look at what they are eating, and what they could eat if they cooked from scratch.  Fresh veg is not an expensive option, and I don’t believe that junk food is cheaper than a pot of homemade soup.

I’ve been overweight all my life, despite eating relatively healthily (if you believe that relatively low fat, fresh food is healthy).  I live a pretty sedentary life and haven’t exercised for years, literally years.  I’m not proud of this.

I have never thought that a gastric band could be the answer, but have tried weight watchers and other calorie based diets in the past.  Nothing has felt easy for me and the weight has always crept back on.  It’s hard to keep it off when cooking and baking are such enjoyable and key activities in my life.

In July this year I saw a nutritionist.  She asked me thousands of questions, and ‘prescribed’ a low carb diet for me.  No carbs for breakfast, and low carbs for the rest of the day – concentrate on proteins and green veg; avoid white processed carbs, and avoid fruit juice.  In fact avoid most fruit, especially bananas.  I’ve not had a glass of fruit juice or a banana since.  And so far I’ve lost 11lbs and feel healthier than I have in years.  And I’ve never felt hungry, or struggled to know what to eat.

Now, I’m not suggesting that all obese people try this – but it works for me.  I have a metabolism that copes well with this regime.  From day one I haven’t craved a carb, and the best thing about this eating regime is that there are just whole aisles in the supermarket that I just walk past.  Why walk down the bread aisle if I’m not going to eat processed carbs?  In fact, apart from household stuff, I pretty much just go to the meat/fish/dairy and veg aisles and leave all the others.  I’m discovering some interesting new flavour combinations, and now know that I don’t need pasta or rice or potatoes or bread to bulk out a meal for me to feel satisfied.

One disadvantage is that it is not a cheap way of eating as protein rich meals tend to be more expensive than carb rich meals.  Swapping my porridge for scrambled eggs for breakfast may help my weight-loss, but does not help the bank balance.

However, I’m buying more sensibly and not throwing out as much food as I used to, so perhaps it’s balancing out.

Anyway, you might be wondering why this is called lemon kisses if it’s all just about obesity.  I warn you, lemon kisses are not going to help in any diet, whether you are low fat, low carb, low calorie.  It’s got them all.  But oh, they are so light and buttery.  And lemony.

Autumn Sundays aren’t just for getting cross at the papers. They also need to involve lots of good kitchen time – yesterday I made some sweet gherkin pickle (so easy and so delicious) and today is all about the baking.  And knitting.  More on the knitting soon.

But back to the lemon kisses.

I first made them back at the beginning of the year, and then promptly forgot where I’d put the recipe.  So, I googled today, and here they are, courtesy of the BBC Good Food website.  A batch is in the oven right now.

Lemon kisses

200g butter, at room temperature (or warmer if your kitchen is as cold as mine)

140g caster sugar

1 egg yolk

1 tsp vanilla extract

zest of 1 lemon

280g plain flour

And for the filling and icing:

1/2 jar lemon curd (preferably home made – go on, it really is deliciously simple to make and who hasn’t got 30 minutes to make a jar of lemony loveliness?)

zest of 1 lemon

juice of 1 lemon

140g icing sugar

Oven 180C, GM6

  1. Mix the butter, sugar, vanilla extract, egg yolk and lemon zest with a wooden spoon in a large bowl
  2. Add the flour and mix together – you may struggle to get it all to bind with the spoon, so tip it out and lightly knead it together with your hands
  3. Roll out (I do it in two batches) on a lightly floured surface and cut into cute little biscuit shapes
  4. Place on baking trays and pop in the fridge for about 30 mins
  5. Bake for 8-12 minutes till golden. Cool on a wire rack
  6. When cool, spread half the biscuits with a little lemon curd, and sandwich each with a second biscuit
  7. Mix the lemon juice and icing sugar, and drizzle over the biscuits; sprinkle with lemon zest.  Leave to set on a wire rack
  8. Eat. In moderation.
One of my favourite easy puddings is a pretendie lemon ripple ice cream, made with a couple of scoops of nice vanilla ice cream (not too sweet a brand) and some lemon curd swirled through it as it’s served.  Serve with lemon kisses.  I guess you could go mad and do a lemony knickerbocker glory with ice cream, fresh cream, lemon curd and lemon kisses. Perhaps even some crumbled lemon kisses over the top of the glory as decoration? Over to you – just remember that eating a knickerbocker glory every day is probably not the best way to get a portion of your five a day.  You heard it here first.

Lemony almondy cake

17 Jul

Saffron spiced lemony almondy cake

As I write this, the cake is just out of the oven.  It smells delicious.  I lie.  They smell delicious, for I made a loaf cake and a round sponge.  If only because I didn’t have the perfect baking tin.

I’d been looking for a recipe for a flourless lemony cake for a week or so, and had found various versions of a cake made with eggs, ground almonds, sugar and lemon zest.  In the end I settled on a recipe in one of my absolute favourite magazines and set to adaptation (if only because I had slightly different ingredients in the kitchen).

The original recipe is http://www.deliciousmagazine.co.uk/recipes/almond-cake-in-spiced-citrus-syrup

Lemony almondy cake

Lemony almondy cake waiting for the saffron syrup

Grease and line a deep round 23cm springform tin.  Or a shallower one and a 1lb loaf tin.

Oven Gas Mark 4.  I had it on 5 by mistake to start with, and the top of the cake on the top shelf is slightly darker brown than I would have liked.

6 eggs, separated

200g caster sugar plus 1 TBsp

200g ground almonds

2 lemons

  1. Add the TBsp of sugar to the bowl with the egg whites and whisk till it forms stiff peaks
  2. In another bowl, whisk the yolks and the remaining sugar together till it is pale pale creamy and quite thick in texture
  3. Stir the lemon zest and ground almonds into the yolky mixture
  4. Add about 1/4 of the egg white to the almondy mixture to loosen it slightly. Mix it in.
  5. Now fold the almondy mixture and the rest of whisked egg whites together.
  6. Pour into the baking tins and bake for about 40mins, or till a skewer comes out clean.
  7. Cool on a wire rack.
When cool, you can poke holes in it and drizzle with lemony sugar syrup, or with this spiced sugar syrup.
Spiced lemon syrup
Juice of 2 lemons
2 heaped TBsps caster sugar
half a cinnamon stick
some saffron threads
the black sticky seeds from 3-4 cardamom pods
  1. Heat all the ingredients in a small pan
  2. Stir until the sugar dissolves
  3. Boil for around 5-10 minutes, or until good and syrupy

Saffron scented lemony almondy cake

So, there you have it.  A VERY easy, and very moistly delicious lemony almondy cake.  Gluten free.  Not exactly suitable for those on a low carb diet, as it is full of sugar, even before you drizzle it with the syrup.  Ah well, I know someone who will love to eat it at tea-time.
Edited to say this is a fabulous cake – light and delicate.  The syrup definitely enhances it, so don’t skimp on that stage.

Lemons, beetroot and cheese

13 Feb

Some of my favourite flavours, and such is the stuff of the perfect Valentine’s feast.

I call it a feast, but actually it’s a series of feasts really.

Yesterday (Saturday) we indulged in some exquisite stilton from Mellis the cheesemonger (a special trip into the west end of Glasgow specifically to buy Valentines cheese!). We had it with freshly baked rolls, sliced relatively thinly like a wee loaf.

For lunch today I made a warm beetroot and goats cheese tart.  And later we’ll be having more beetroot, lightly pickled in a sweet vinegar, with salmon and fresh linguine.

Afterwards we’ll have vanilla panna cotta, which looks delicious, but the coffee gelee on top seems to be liquid coffee, and not a gelee at all.  And for real afters there’ll be a cheeseboard.  Yum.

Lemons.  Where do the lemons come into all of this?

I made a batch of Lemon Kisses – in an assortment of heart, flower and helicopter shapes.  The helicopters will of course be the most popular.  And, I prefer biscuits on their own, not squidged together with cream or icing, or whatever. But the recipe calls for squidging them together with Lemon Curd, so I’ve just made a batch of Lemon Curd, one of my favourtie things to make, and absolute favourite flavours.  I love that sharp lemoniness.  I must experiment with lime and orange curds in the coming months.  Blood oranges are in season right now (and I have three in the fruit bowl ) – I suspect they would make a pretty spectacular curd.

Large jar of lemon curd - store in fridge

Lemon curd

Makes one relatively small jar

60g unsalted butter
130g caster sugar
Zest and juice of 1½ large unwaxed lemons
2 large eggs, beaten

  1. Chop the butter into a heavy-based saucepan.
  2. Add the sugar, lemon juice and zest
  3. Warm over a low heat, stirring occasionally, until the butter melts and the sugar dissolves
  4. Pour the beaten eggs into the pan, stirring rapidly as you pour
  5. Keep stirring over a low heat until the mixture thickens.  This will take 5-10 minutes.
  6. Once it is thickened, pour into a sterilised jar.  DO NOT allow it to boil as it will curdle.
  7. Once cool, seal the jar and keep in the fridge.
  8. Use within 4 weeks.

Delicious on hot buttered toast, stirred into yoghurt, sandwiching biscuits or sponge cakes.

Beetroot and goats cheese jalousie

Earthy beetroot and horseradish, goaty goats cheese all encased in buttery flaky puffy pastry

  • 1 1/2 medium beetroot, cooked
  • a few slices of goats cheese
  • 2 Tbs yoghurt / creme fraiche
  • 3 tsp grated horseradish
  • 1pkt all butter puff pastry

Grease a baking tray. 

  1. Cut a third of the pastry and roll out into an oblong.  Cook in a GM 7 oven for 10 minutes.
  2. Grate the beetroot and mix with the yoghurt or creme fraiche and horseradish. Season
  3. Cut into the pastry base, squishing down the pastry in the middle, creating a ‘wall’ round the edge and an oblong hole in the middle.
  4. Place the beetroot mixture into the hole in the pastry
  5. Put slices of goats cheese on top
  6. Roll the remainder of the pastry into a larger oblong.  Cut slashes into this pastry, to create diagonals on the pastry lid
  7. Brush the edges of the pastry base with beaten egg
  8. Carefully place the pastry lid over the top of the tart (do this by carefully rolling the whole lid round the rolling pin and then unrolling it back on top of the tart base)
  9. Brush the pastry lid with egg wash
  10. Bake in the hot oven for about 20 minutes, or until the pastry is risen and cooked
  11. Eat while warm, served with a watercress salad

The lemon kisses recipe will follow.  Eventually

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