Middle Eastern Meal!

Good things come to those who wait and I’m sorry I didn’t post this sooner but as I mentioned a few weeks ago I made a middle eastern meal for some friends of mine who came to stay! As with any good dinner party you need to spend time with your friends and not all your time in the kitchen so I tried to stick to things I could make in advance and used a combination of homemade dishes and ready made goodies! I made a Tabouleh salad myself and cooked halloumi and marinated chicken. I also made some homemade bab ganoush, an aubergine dip from Lebanon. You can easily recreate this feast at home using shop bought dips and salads. I also used a falafel mix that I bought from Waitrose. It made about 10 falafel for £1.10! I hope you like the images and if you want any information on the dishes just let me know!

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Florentines: Failures and Foolproofs

Having tried my first Florentine the other day I was in love instantly! The one’s I tried were made by ‘Fudges’ and are available in Waitrose and Co-op. They are deliciously rich without being too sweet. If you are thinking about making Florentines before trying them, I would definitely recommend you buy a box of the Fudge’s Florentines first to give you an idea how they should taste! This recipe uses a Hairy Biker’s recipe as a basis but I then read the Fudge’s ingredient list and adapted the recipe to make them as similar as possible!

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To begin with a did have one large failure making these Florentines. The Hairy Biker’s recipe suggests you place the mixture on greaseproof paper on a baking tray. DO NOT DO THIS! You’ll have this issue…

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….Florentines that are CEMENTED to the greaseproof paper! No amount of pallete knifing or careful prising will get these bad boys off, believe me! I ended up throwing the lot away because no one was tempted by a paper Florentine sandwich. What you will need is a silicon baking sheet. I bought mine from Sainsbury’s but they are widely available. They don’t need greasing and the Florentine’s come right off! Don’t attempt this recipe without a silicone baking tray, trust me!

Now that bit is out of the way here’s the recipe!

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 75g golden caster sugar OR golden caster sugar

  • 2 tsp plain flour

  • 75ml crème fraîche OR  double cream. I’ve tried both and personally I think the cream is better!

  • 50g flaked almonds

  • 2 tbsp candied peel

  • 2 tbsp crystallised stem ginger

  • 50g sultanas

  • 100g good quality dark chocolate, broken into pieces

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Method

1. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4.

2. Heat the butter, sugar and flour in a pan over a medium heat, stirring continuously, until the butter has melted and the sugar has dissolved.

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3. Gradually add the crème fraîche or cream, stirring continuously until well combined.

4. Add the almonds, candied peel, stem ginger, and sultanas and mix well until combined.

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5. Place teaspoonfuls of the mix onto your silicon baking sheet. Gently press them down the make a slightly flatter circle. Shape them at this stage into a neat-ish circle but remember they will spread! Space the teaspoonfuls out at 2.5cm/1in intervals so they don’t merge together when heated.

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6. Transfer the florentines to the oven and bake for 15-20 minutes, or until golden-brown. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool on the tray, then transfer the florentines to a cooling rack. To do this, carefully remove them from the tray with a palette knife. They will still be slightly bendy.

7. Bring a little water to a simmer in a pan. Suspend a heatproof bowl over the water (do not allow the base of the bowl to touch the water). Add the chocolate pieces and stir until smooth and melted.

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8. Turn the florentines so that the flat base is facing upwards. Spread the melted chocolate over the florentine bases and set aside to cool and set. You may need to do this in the fridge!

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Middle Eastern Meal…

As I might have mentioned before I used to live in Oman in the Middle East for most of my life. Now I’m back in the UK I miss my friends from there so much! We now all live at different corners of the UK and it’s hard for us to meet up but this weekend we are doing just that and I’m planning on cooking a middle eastern feast for us all! I had a search on the internet for some inspirational ideas. This is what I came up with but I will be sure to share pictures of the food I actually make with you next week!

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Breakfast Muffins! (P.S. They’re low fat!)

On my quest to find the best muffins I tried my first ever (cringe) ‘low fat’ bake! Now when I say low fat, I’m not suggesting you scrap your 5-a-day and have 5 muffins instead but these are a great alternative to cereal in the morning and brilliant if you would rather eat later or take breakfast to work with you! They contain honey rather than sugar and are sweetened with fruit! The nuts and oats add an amazing crunch!

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This recipe makes 12 muffins and the method is super simple! It came from my Good Food magazine which I recently subscribed to!

Ingredients

  • 2 large eggs
  • 150ml pot natural low-fat yogurt
  • 50ml rapeseed or vegetable oil
  • 100g apple sauce or puréed apples
  • 1 ripe banana, mashed
  • 4 tbsp honey
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 200g wholemeal flour
  • 50g rolled oats, plus extra for sprinkling
  • 1½ tsp baking powder
  • 1½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1½ tsp cinnamon
  • 100g blueberries
  • 2 tbsp mixed seeds, I bought mine from Sainsbury’s and you can buy them in bags mixed!
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    Method

    1. Heat oven to 180C/160C fan/gas 4. Line a 12-hole muffin tray with 12 large muffin cases.

    2. In a jug, mix the eggs, yogurt, oil, apple sauce, banana, honey and vanilla. (It will look disgusting, don’t panic!)

    3. Tip the remaining ingredients, except the seeds, into a large bowl, add a pinch of salt and mix to combine.

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    4. Next, pour the wet ingredients into the dry, mix briefly until you have an even batter, don’t over mix as this will make the muffins heavy. All you want is for the ingredients to be evenly mixed, no clumps of flour etc.

    5. Spoon the batter between the cases. Sprinkle the muffins with the extra oats and the seeds.

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    6.Bake for 25-30 mins until golden and well risen, and a skewer inserted to the centre of a muffin comes out clean. Remove from the oven, transfer to a wire rack and leave to cool. Store in a sealed container for up to 3 days!

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    I’ve died and gone to wine heaven…

    When it comes to wine I’m not particularly adventurous but I absolutely love a gorgeous chilled glass of Sauvignon Blanc or an indulgent glass of prosecco! This weekend I visited the Clitheroe Food Festival with my friend and we bought ourselves a delicious bottle (which we then drank far too quickly!) from D Byrne and Co a local wine shop that dates back to the 1870’s. To say its a treasure trove would be an utter understatement! If you were locked in here you’d be drunk for this lifetime and the next there’s that much stock! From the old to the new and from every corner of the globe there’s something to suit everyone’s taste! And it’s not just wine, cider, whiskey anything you can imagine you can buy here! I love the oldy worldy feel the shop has! It’s brilliant for a good, CAREFUL rummage! I’m still having nightmares about knocking over a full shelf of stock…

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    Blueberry Muffin…Success!

    After my horrendous blueberry muffin fail a few weeks ago I’ve been really trying to improve my muffin making skills! I found a whole ream of recipes on the internet and I looked through all of them comparing and contrasting techniques to try to find the optimum recipe. This recipe I found really does work but the muffins are quite sweet and more of a sponge cake type texture. I’m still chasing a recipe that will give me Starbucks style amazing muffins but I’m yet to find it! I will keep trying though and if I find a better one I’ll be sharing it!

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    The bets part of this recipe has to be the crumble or streusel topping! Made similar to a traditional crumble the topping is sprinkled over the cake mix and becomes crunchy and crispy on the surface of the muffins!

    If you would like to give these muffins a try here is the link to the recipe! I would just like to add that this recipe makes 6-9 muffins depending on the sizes of your muffin tins! Mine are more of a cupcake size so it made 8 muffins. If you have very large tins you will probably only make 6!

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    The texture of the recipe is very thin and almost batter like. Don’t be concerned this is how the mixture should be!

    To create the crumble topping I halved the mixture on the recipe as many people had mentioned it makes too much mix! I agree as even half was still too much!

    To speed this up you could make the crumble topping in a food processor. This cuts the butter with the sugar and the flour a lot faster than using a fork or your fingers. You’re looking for a texture similar to sand or gravel. Then sprinkle this over the filled cake cases.

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    While the texture and flavour of these muffins is great I still don’t feel that I’ve found the ultimate recipe. I know everyone’s tastes are different but for me I prefer a more dry muffin that is slightly less sweet. I would also like the topping to be more crisp and crunchy! I’m going to try and tweak this recipe and read a few more to really find an ultimate muffin recipe which I’m hoping I will post soon. I know I sound a bit muffin obsessed but I’m really enjoying making them and I hope I can find one that really works! If anyone has any great muffin tips please let me know I’d really appreciate it!

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    Birthday Cake! Another attempt…

    Recently it was my friends 21st birthday and not knowing what to get I decided to bake a cake! I’m not brilliant at decorating celebration cakes but I am trying to improve! To make this recipe I used my Ultimate Chocolate Cake recipe.

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    The fudge icing for this recipe contains butter and when warm it is quite pliable. The butter can slightly separate from the icing but this allows you to spread the icing smoothly without a knife sticking to the top! This is how I achieved the smooth finish on the top of the cake! As I put the fudge icing in the centre of the cake as well I didn’t have enough to cover the sides so I whipped up a batch of chocolate buttercream (butter, icing sugar, cocoa powder) and using a large star nozzle, piped individual stars all over the exterior of the cake. I then used writing icing to pipe the ‘21’ onto the cake and decorated the cake with Dr Oetker chocolate stars which I think look quite effective! I know the cake isn’t a show stopper but I can only realistically use more simple techniques to decorate until I improve my skills! If anyone else has any simple techniques for decorating cakes please let me know!

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