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…….Pies!!!!!

Apparently Whoopie Pies are the new cupcake……don’t know who is spreading this rumor but it’s out there! I love making (& eating!) cupcakes and so the whoopie pie has big shoes to fill….

Back in March when we finally visited the Hummingbird Bakery we purchased a whoopie pie and then proceeded to leave in Aunty Amy’s bag – Gggrrr……

Now, the first thing I wondered was ‘where the heck did they come up with the name Whoopie Pie?’ – a quick google search revealed an interesting story….

The recipe for whoopie pies has its origins with the Amish, and in Lancaster county, Pennsylvania, it is not uncommon to find roadside farm stands offering these desserts. Amish cooking is about old recipes that have fed families for generations, with no trendy or cross-cultural fusions or mixtures. These cake-like whoopie pies were considered a special treat because they were originally made from leftover batter. According to Amish legend, when children would find these treats in their lunch bags, they would shout “Whoopie!”

I found this recent Times article online  – not sure that I agree but it’s a good read. I like the decadence and cuteness of a cupcake and I don’t think that a whoopie pie can match that. Cupcake or Whoopie Pie – I don’t think either is particularly manly but that certainly wouldn’t stop James eating them!

So when this months Sainsburys magazine featured WP’s on the front cover I decided it was time to give them a go…..

The verdict? Easy to make & fun to eat! We will definitely be looking forward to trying out different flavours and varieties. James and I both took a batch to work – they were fairly well received – not on par with cupcakes and muffins with my colleagues though! This batch we tried out Raspberry & Coconut and Passionfruit.  I think I need to work on producing a nice fluffy marshmallow cream and if making the raspberry ones again I would prefer to use fresh raspberries rather than raspberry jam.

As for Izzy? It’s cake – she loves it!

The Vanilla Whoopie (courtesy of The Sainsburys Magazine – June 2010)

Ingredients:-

75g unsalted butter

1 large egg

150g caster sugar

125g soured cream

25ml cold milk

1 tsp vanilla extract

3/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda

275g plain flour

200g icing sugar

sugar balls or sprinkles, to decorate

For the marshmallow cream:-

100g mini or regular white marshmallows

50ml milk

125g very soft unsalted butter

Line a large baking tray with non stick baking paper and preheat the oven to 180C, fan 160C.

Melt the 75g of butter and set aside. Using an electric hand mixer whisk the egg until light and fluffy. Beat in the sugar a third at a time until thick and glossy.

Beat in the melted butter, soured cream, milk and vanilla. Sift the bicarbonate of soda and flour into the bowl and beat until smooth. Using a wide piping nozzle or spoon, pipe or spoon the mixture on to the try in small walnut- sized balls, 3-4cm apart. you’ll need to bake in batches.

Bake for 13-14 minutes until almost evenly golden on top. Leave to cool for a few minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack and bake the remaining mixture.

For the cream, heat the marshmallows and milk in a saucepan over a low heat, stirring until smooth, then cool. Beat the butter until creamy and soft then gradually beat into the marshmallow until smooth.

Sandwich two whoopie cakes together with the marshmallow cream.

For the icing, mix the icing sugar with 2-3 Tbsp of cold water. Spread a little on each whoopie and decorate.

Raspberry Ruffle – add 100g desiccated coconut and 2 Tbsp extra milk into the mixture and sprinkle extra coconut over the top before baking. Beat 2 Tbsp raspbery preserve into the marshmallow cream.

Passionfruit – scoop out the pulp of 4 passionfruit and beat into the marshmallow cream. Add pulp of 2 passionfruit with the icing sugar and 1/2 Tbsp cold water.

Whoopie!!


I love a bit of 42 below Vodka – it’s the Feijoa flavour that takes me immediately back to childhood summers in NZ (more the feijoa bit….not the vodka!).  The 42 below marketing is by no means PC but I don’t think you could deny that it is original…..and I think pretty clever!

I have just come across the version for the Brits…….

One Pot Wonder

You may have gathered by now that we do like one pot dishes – it saves on the washing up!! One pot dishes are definitely back in vogue – especially with the slow cooking phenomenon. Throughout the winter my colleague Phil would regale us with tales about what his slow cooker had produced the night before – that is if he had remembered to turn it on!

There are so many variations on one pot dishes that you can find something to fit anyones taste. It’s also a great way of adding extra veg & pulses.

James was in charge of dinner tonight and took on Thomasina Miers ‘Mexican Food’………can’t go wrong in my eyes! This recipe uses Chipotle puree and so although not very hot it does leave a tingle in the mouth and so probably not one for Izzy. I am not sure that I would leave this out to adapt to Izzy’s taste buds as it’s the chipotle that gives the dish it’s smokiness which makes it special.

One-pot Bacon, Beans & Pumpkin (courtesy of Thomasina Miers – Mexican Food)

Serves 4

Ingredients:-

160g dried pinto beans

2 Tbsp olive oil

200g pancetta, diced

1 white onion, sliced

3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped

1/2 tsp ground cumin

500g pumpkin, peeled and diced

2 red peppers, deseeded and sliced

2 tsp Chipotle puree

2 bay leaves

5 sprigs of oregano

200g baby tomatoes

500ml chicken stock

To serve:

100ml sour cream

40g pumpkin seeds, tossed

a small handful chopped coriander ( we leave this out as we are not coriander fans!)

Soak the pinto beans in cold water overnight.

Preheat the oven to 180C. Heat the olive oil in a heavy-bottomed pan, add the pancetta and cook until slightly golden.

Add the onion, garlic and cumin and cook for a further 5 minutes before adding the pumpkin, pepper, chipotle, herbs and baby tomatoes.

Cook until everything has slightly softened, then add the beans and the stock.

Cover with baking parchment and a lid and place in the oven or carry on cooking on the stove for about 45 minutes until the beans are soft.

Serve with sour cream, pumpkin seeds, and the fresh coriander.

Thanks James!!

On another note I had a delivery today…….YAY!! When it comes to Cookbooks I feel like a junkie looking for the next hit. I get such a thrill when a new one arrives……

I have had the Ottolenghi book in my Amazon basket for ages and with the second book – Plenty – just released I decided to order them both. My boss is a keen cook and he loves this book and so I hope it lives up to his recommendation. As I type this James is sitting next to me flicking through them – there have been lots of oohs aahs and plenty of ‘look at this’ …….. it’s looking good! Watch this space!!

I have not made French Toast in a long time. I remember Mum making it with fruit bread  – so much better than boring white bread. That seems to me to be just like eggy fried bread – nice but not great!  It’s the fruit bread that makes it great.

It is the sort of dish that doesn’t really need a recipe – essentially it is bread dipped in egg and fried. What you add to that mix and how you serve it is just a matter of taste and experimentation.

It’s also the perfect dish for a Sunday morning! Strangely Izzy would not entertain the idea of fried bananas alongside the toast – what’s not to love? and then she took alot of convincing on the maple syrup…..again, what’s not to love? As expected once Izzy finally tasted the maple syrup she was sold …”Mummy I love Maple Syrup…’ not sure I want her to love it too much since it is currently 5 precious English pounds a bottle!

A basic, but loose, recipe is as follows:-

Ingredients:-

3 large eggs

180 ml milk

pinch of salt

1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract (optional)

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon (optional)

6 slices of good quality, day old bread (try using fruit bread!)

Butter for frying

In a large bowl whisk together the eggs, milk, salt, vanilla extract and ground cinnamon (if using). Transfer the egg mixture to a large shallow glass or ceramic dish. Dip both sides of each slice of bread into the egg mixture. Meanwhile, in a large non-stick frying pan, over medium to medium-high heat, melt about one tablespoon of butter. Fry the slices of bread until golden brown on one side and then turn and fry the other side.

Determined to cut up her toast all by herself!

2 slices of French Toast later I think I can safely assume that Izzy enjoyed it!

Following breakfast we headed out to the Natural History Museum, along with what seemed like the rest of London. Not surprising on a rainy bank holiday weekend. The queue was enormous and so we opted to head into the Butterfly House and thankfully that gave us priority entry into the museum. Way too many crowds for my liking – too claustrophobic, but a stroll through the butterfly house  and seeing the birds display (first time she has seen a Kiwi!!) along with the dinosaur in the central hall was all Izzy was interested in at this stage.

The last couple of weeks have provided fairly consistent clear skies and sunshine but………weather lady please take note that 3 days at 21 degrees does not constitute a heat wave! However today it is raining – of course it is it’s a bank holiday weekend! so not quite sure how we are going to entertain ourselves. It may be time to tackle some household chores which have been put on the back burner……….boring but necessary.

Before I contemplate that crazy idea any further I thought I would catch up on blogging and share with you a couple of fantastic chicken recipes I have made over the last couple of weeks. Moving away from hearty winter stews & soups and making use of spring and summer veg. These recipes worked for the whole family and was a great way to expand the repertoire of veg that Izzy will consider, along with some oh-so-good for you pulses.

First up was a Spring Chicken & Citrus Stew from Jamie Oliver. Jamie calls this a transitional dish – still has the stew element of winter but also the fresh colours & flavours of spring. Unfortunately, and strangely I could not find any dill so we had to go sans dill which was a shame as I think that would have added some extra va va voom!

Spring Chicken & Citrus Stew (courtesy of Jamie Magazine – Apr/May 10)

Serves 4-6

Ingredients:-

3 Tbsp olive oil

1 large chicken, portioned into legs, thighs, breast & wings

6 garlic cloves, finely chopped

1 large onion, finely chopped

1 fennel bulb, finely chopped

1 small leek, trimmed, finely sliced

Small bunch of parsley, stalks finely chopped, leaves reserved

Small bunch of dill, stalks finely chopped, tops reserved

Few stems of tarragon, stalks finely chopped, leaves reserved

Large handful of green olives, stoned

Large handful each of frozen peas, frozen broad beans and tinned cannellini beans

Juice of 2 lemons

2 large eggs, beaten

2 Tbsp natural yoghurt

EVOO

Parmesan cheese, for grating

Put large casserole  pan over a medium heat and then add some olive oil. Season the chicken portions, then place in the casserole. Cook for about 10 minutes, o till chicken is browned on all sides, then move to a plate. There should be a few tablespoons of fat left in the pan; if you have more get rid of most of it before adding the garlic, onion, fennel, leek and herb stalks, and cooking till softened.

Put the chicken back in the pan, pour in 600ml water, then season with sea salt and black pepper. Cover with a lid, then cook over a low medium heat for about an hour, until the chicken is tender and falling off the bone. Bring the mixture back up to a boil and stir in the olives, peas, broad beans and cannellini beans. When the frozen vegetables are done, add most of the herb leaves, reserving some to finish.

Remove the chicken from the stew and use 2 forks to pul the meat off the bones. Discard the bones, the return the meat to the pan. At this point the stew will be delicious, but it’s the next step that makes it amazing.

Beat the lemon juice and eggs well, then pour slowly into the stew. Don’t stir it in too much, the egg mixture should add a gorgeous shine, not scramble. Stir in the yoghurt before ladling the stew into bowls. Drizzle a little EVOO over each bowl, grate over some parmesan, then sprinkle over the reserved herbs.

Second spring chicken recipe…….

Chicken, Asparagus & Fairtrade Lemon Cassoulet (courtesy of LEON)

Serves 2

Ingredients:-

1 Fairtrade lemon, zested and juiced

4 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped

3 Tbsp olive oil (not EV)

2 heaped Tbsp chopped thyme leaves

2 free range chicken supremes,  skin on, with the little bone left in (I added a chicken breast too)

1 buch on English asparagus, with thickish stems

1 medium onion, cut into medium dice

1 x 400g tin of haricot beans

2 bay leaves

1/2 a glass of white wine

200-300 ml hot chicken stock

4 Tbsp fresh bread crumbs

Fairtrade lemon wedges

S & P

Put the lemon juice & zest, half the garlic, two thirds of the olive oil, the thyme and plenty of black pepper into a dish. Add the chicken, turn to coat, and leave in the fridge over night to marinate.

The next day, break the woody ends off the asparagus, then chop the stalks into 4cm pieces, keeping the tips whole: save two whole spears for the top.

In your favourite frying pan heat the remaining olive oil.

Take the chicken out of the marinade, but don’t throw the marinade away.

Season the chicken well, especially on the skin side, and lay it down in the hot oil.

Once the skin is a nice light brown, take the chicken out of the pan and rest it skin side up – it shouldn’t be there for more than a couple of minutes.

Now tip the onion into the pan and stir for a minute or two.

Keeping the heat up, add the reserved marinade and the rest of the garlic and fry for another couple of minutes to get the flavours moving.

Stir in the drained beans and bay leaves, give them a quick roll around, pour in the wine and reduce by half.

Turn the heat off, stir in the asparagus pieces and season to within an inch of it’s life.

Preheat the oven to 200C.

Tip it all into an oven-proof dish so that the beans are filling it pretty much to the brim, then press the supremes in, skin sides up, so that the flesh is just at the same level as the beans.

Pour in the hot stock to the point where you can just see it below the beans. Scatter the breadcrumbs all over the beans but not the chicken, lay the last two asparagus spears on top of the breasts and give it all a last light drizzle of olive oil.

Bake in the oven for around 30 minutes – you want golden breadcrumbs, bubbling edges.

Serve with a handsome piece of lemon on the side.

Ready for the oven

Out of the oven and ready for the table

More from LEON..

While I was home with Izzy this week I had a little more time than usual to prepare a week day meal. I am still in love with my new LEON cook book and I had been wanting to make the Leon Gobi – basically it’s a cauliflower curry.

Unfortunately even with extra time my timings were out and it was not ready in time for Izzy so I can’t comment on her reaction. I am not sure she would enjoy this – I believe ‘Mummy…too spicy….’ would be the likely reaction. Perhaps just leaving out the chilli would make it more family friendly. The other spices are the flavour as opposed to the heat.

Post dinner verdict? – even the most ardent and dedicated carnivore will not miss meat in this dish – it is warming, fulfilling and delish! Oh and cheap……Serve alongside a portion of brown rice.

This recipe did not disappoint – another thumbs up for LEON!

Leon Gobi (courtesy of LEON)

Ingredients:-

1 medium onion, halved and thickly sliced

1 carrot, thickly sliced

2 Tbsp sunflower or peanut oil

1 red chilli (go for a bird’s eye if you like it hot – some do)

2 thumb sized pieces of root ginger, washed but not peeled

5 cloves garlic, peeled

1 large tsp Madras curry powder

1 tsp turmeric

1 tsp black onion seeds

1 medium sized sweet potato, washed and cut into 2.5cm dice

4 heaped Tbsp ground almonds

a good handful of sultanas

1/2 a small cauliflower, broken into florets

1 x 400ml tin of coconut milk

150g frozen peas

juice of 1/2 lemon

a really big handful of coriander, roughly chopped

salt

2 heaped Tbsp desiccated coconut, to serve

In a big and well loved saucepan cook the onion and carrot over a medium to low heat in the oil for 15-20 minutes with the lid on, stirring occasionally. Season with salt.

Blitz the chilli, ginger and garlic to a paste in a food processor. Stir the paste into the onions once they have begun to soften, along with spices (including the onion seeds).

After another 5 minutes, season with salt, add the sweet potato chunks and the almonds and mix well so that everything is well coated.

Turn the heat up a bit and stir in 500ml water and the sultanas.

Bring it up to a simmer and leave it to bubble away gently for about 10-15 minutes with the lid off, stirring occasionally.

Add the cauliflower florets and the cocnut milk and simmer for a further 10-15 minutes covered.

Check that the sweet potato and cauliflower are both cooked, and then turn the heat off and stir in the peas. It’ll need more salt, plus the lemon juice and chopped coriander to finish it off right. We serve it with a sprinkling of dried coconut on top.

Lastly, Izzy spent Friday with her Aunty Amy (who chipped in for Pox duty!) and when we walked in the door from work the smell of cupcakes was in the air.  Mmmmm……my favourite smell. One of Izzy’s favourite books is Pinkalicious – the story of a little girl who changes colour after eating one too many pink cupcakes. If this was true Izzy would be another colour as I type this! As we have already established Izzy does enjoy a cupcake (like her Mum!) and yesterday she ate 1 or 2 with Aunty Amy and then later on she disappeared quietly for a couple of minutes…………only to be found behind the door in the hallway halfway through her third!! So, cupcakes are off the menu for a little while!!

Kiwiana Cookies

For my birthday this year I received some great new cookie cutters (thanks Sals, Craig, Max & Conor!) in the shape of New Zealand and a Kiwi! I have been meaning to try them out for ages and with some spare time this afternoon it was time to break them out!

I would like to say Izzy was on hand to help me out but since the pox outbreak she has been pooped so is back to having an afternoon nap, and we are having to wake her up after 3 hours otherwise she might not want to go to sleep at night!!

I have not yet found my perfect fail safe cookie cutting recipe and after Louise @ Domestic Scene blogged her daughter engrossed in Nigella’s How to be a Domestic Goddess and her Butter Cut-Out Biscuits I have had them in mind to try next.

The recipe worked a treat and was perfect for cookie cutters. I have always had a problem with the dough sticking to the bench but this time I made sure the dough had plenty of time in the fridge, plenty of flour on the bench and cookie cutter and didn’t roll the dough out too thin – all previous mistakes!!

Izzy was on hand however to dictate what colour she wanted them and it was not until I was just about to add the food colouring did I realise what I was about to do…….. Yellow & Green…..on Kiwi (not Australian!) Cookies……Never!! Since I don’t have black or white colouring I just stuck with blue and pink. We will see tomorrow if this acceptable to Miss Izzy!!!

So, finally I have found the recipe – this is one to use time and time again! I cut the dough in half and will be popping half in the freezer for a rainy day.

Butter Cut-Out Biscuits (courtesy of Nigella Lawson – How to be a Domestic Goddess)

Ingredients:-

175g soft unsalted butter

200g caster sugar

2 large eggs

1 tsp vanilla extract

400g plain flour, preferably Italian OO, plus more if needed

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp salt

300g icing sugar, sieved

Food colouring

Preheat the oven to 180C.

Cream the butter and sugar together until pale and moving towards moussiness, then beat in the eggs and vanilla. In another bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt.

Add the dry ingredients to the butter and eggs, and mix gently but surely. If you think the finished mixture is too sticky to be rolled out, add more flour, but do so sparingly as too much will make the dough tough. Halve the dough, form into fat discs, wrap each half in clingfilm and rest in teh fridge for at least 1 hour.

Sprinkle a suitable surface with flour, place a disc of dough on it (not taking out the other half until you’ve finished with the first) and sprinkle a little more flour on top of that. Then roll it out to a thickness of about 1/2 cm. Cut into shapes, dipping the cutter into flour as you go, and place the biscuits a little part on the baking sheets.

Bake for 8-12 minutes, by which time they will be lightly golden around the edges. Cool on a rack and continue with the rest of the dough. When they’re all fully cooled, you can get on with the icing.

Put a couple of tablespoons of just-not-boiling water into a large bowl, add the sieved icing sugar and mix together, adding more water as you need to form a thick paste. Colour as desired, let the artistic spirit within you speak, remembering with gratitude that children have very bad taste.

Makes 50-60.

You can find these cutters here. I love them!

I also found this online – love it so had to share it! Very tough Kiwi Cookies!!