Sunday, 31 January 2010

Apple and Cinnamon Muffins


These are made using a simple butter cake recipe which I've tweaked to include cinnamon and freshly cut apples. You can also swap the apples for plums when they're in season, which will make my most favourite cake ever.

They are very simple and are technically made with a cupcake texture (which is a bit heavier and denser than standard muffins) but have no frosting, only freshly fruit and a sprinkle of cinnamon sugar before baking.

Apple and Cinnamon muffins

125g Butter, soft
185g Sugar
1 tbsp Vanilla essence (the best and thickest you can find)
2 eggs
250g Self Raising Flour (or the same amount of plain flour with 2-3 teaspoons of baking soda mixed in)
1 teaspoon Ground Cinnamon
125mls Milk
A couple of fresh apples (the amount depends on the size of the apple - any left over slices can be munched on while the 'cupfins' bake)
A few tablespoons Cinnamon sugar (equal quantities fine sugar and ground cinnamon, well combined)

Beat soft butter and sugar together until light and fluffy (raw sugar is not as fine as caster sugar so it might not be as fluffy as you're used to - no problems there, just continue as normal). Add the vanilla and eggs and mix well until thick and combined.

Turn the mixer to the lowest speed, add the milk and spoonfuls at a time of the flour and cinnamon. As soon as it is combined, turn off the mixer and finish it off by hand (if there is a bit of flour on the sides and bottom) with a spatula.

You know how I feel about over mixing by now, so DON'T OVER MIX otherwise it will be rubbery... I say it every time but I mean it - nothing is more disappointing than all that hard work and a rubbery cake at the end of it all....

Cut the apples into slices.

You can pour the mix into a cake tin (any shape or size will do) or individual muffin cases. Lightly push the apple slices into the top of the mixture (you dont have to push it all the way in, it's perfectly fine to have half of the slice poking out, it will brown and be very yummy - and people will know what they are eating if they can see some of the apple on top).

Sprinkle liberally with the cinnamon sugar and bake for about 20-40 minutes (depending on your oven, the tin you used, etc etc). They should be done when they are nicely golden brown on top, but always test with a skewer to make sure they're done.

These are nicest to eat when they're fresh and warm (and if doing a cake version, they are especially nice with whipped cream on the side). They should keep for a few days if kept in a airtight container. You can substitute any fresh fruit (as long as it's not too wet or juicy). As I said, fresh plums are my favourite and cinnamon goes with practically any fruit.

If you freeze them in an airtight container on the day you baked them (just make sure they are cool first), when it comes time to defrost them, they will taste just as fresh as if you had just baked them - and warming them in the oven before serving doesn't hurt either.

Friday, 8 January 2010

A salad fit for a meal

So, I thought I would share with you one of my favourite meals right now (tweaked to my tastes, of course!) - a Salade Composé à la Kangaroo.
This salad has become one of my favourite meals. I ate my first one in a small restaurant in the Opéra area and instead of going back and paying 11€ each time, I thought it would be easy enough to make my own. Now it's become at least a bi-weekly meal in our house.

Ingredients: serves two as a main course

-- Two large handfuls of fresh, well washed lettuce leaves (I usually wash my lettuce three times - you'd be suprised how much grit will come out of it)
-- Small can of corn kernels
-- Canned green beans (or fresh blanched beans if you have the botheredness or time)
-- Beetroot, slices into chunks (fresh or canned)
-- Ripe tomatoes (I use Coeur de Boeuf or Beef heart tomatoes, but any ripe tomato will do)
-- Good quality sliced ham or chicken (or Turkey for that matter), sliced into strips
-- Bacon lardons, fried until crisp in a small amount of olive oil

-- Good olive oil (don't go using just any old oil - it must be good quality!)
-- White or balsamic vinegar (I use a white vinegar called 'Vinaigre de Xérès d'Andalouise' from Maille)
-- A nice spoonful of good Dijon mustard, to taste
-- Salt and pepper, to taste

To compose the salad:

In a large deep bowl or plate, layer the salad leaves, tomato slices, spoonfuls of corn, beans, and sliced beetroot chunks (try to be artistic about it, you eat with your eyes, after all!) On top of it all, place a small pile of the sliced ham and sprinkle the crispy lardons over the top.

Try not to serve this straight out of the fridge - there's nothing worse than a forkful of ice-cold salad - it should be room temperature. And besides, chilled stuff tastes blander than if served at room temperature - so there! ; )

For the dressing:
Generally speaking, vinaigrettes should be 1 part acid (vinegars or lemon juice) to 3 parts oil. This one is no different...

In a small bowl, whisk a spoonful of mustard and about a tablespoon full of the vinegar. Season with salt and pepper. While whisking, drizzle in your olive oil (approximately 3 tablespoons) until the dressing is thick and creamy.

Now is the time to taste and adjust - more mustard? more vinegar? Too sour? (add more olive oil to counter the acidity). Once you are happy with the taste, drizzle this over the finished salad just before serving. Any left over dressing can be kept refrigerated in an airtight container up to 1-2 days.

This salad is great as a meal in itself. It certainly is filling enough, especially when served with small toasts topped with grilled goats cheese (not shown in the photos). Here in Paris, I use Pain de Mie (a slightly sweetened white bread) cut into diagonals and topped with a disk of chèvre (goats cheese).

Happy salad-ing!