When I was younger, a muffin was a small bread roll which was usually split and toasted and eaten as a savoury food. These days when you mention a Muffin, the first thing people thing of is the overgrown cupcake, and the old-fashioned muffins of my childhood is now called an English Muffin.
A couple of weeks ago I was given a link to this recipe and yesterday I finally found time to make some. I followed the recipe as closely as possible, making the first part of the dough on friday evening and adding the salt, honey and baking soda on saturday morning, along with some extra flour to give it more of a doughy texture.
The muffins were left to rise for about an hour before being baked on a pizza stone at gas mark 7 for about 10 minutes. Since the muffins are best when they have a flat top and bottom, I found out that the best way to cook them was to start them off flat side up (in other words, turning them upside down when transferring them from the tray to the stone), then turning them over again after a couple of minutes, before the top starts to bulge.
The first muffins were eaten while still warm, as an egg sandwich for brunch. The toasted buttered muffins shown above were eaten for lunch today.
I thought I was also have a go at making a sourdough pizza base, instead of my normal method which used bread yeast. The dough was made with ½ a cup of sourdough starter, 1½ cups of plain flour, a couple of tablespoons of yellow cornmeal, 2 teaspoons of sugar, a pinch of salt and a tablespoon of pumpkin seed oil (to make a change from our usual olive oil). I left the dough to rise for about 5 or 6 hours.
The pizza here was topped with red pesto, red chillies, chicken, grated cheese and mozarella. The base was nice and soft but it's not clear whether that was due to it being sourdough based or whether it would have been a nice soft bready base anyway.
The Charterhouse, the remains of a 14th century priory just outside Coventry city centre, was open to the public today. The Charterhouse Preservation Trust is trying to find a use for the building which keeps it available for the public. City College had tried to sell the building but when it was bequeathed to the city it was supposed to be used for public education. There is more info on the BBC News website from last year with an update from earlier this week.
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Today is Pancake Day (or to be more traditional, Shrove Tuesday). Our pancake tea consists of Curried Chicken pancakes for main course followed by a couple of dessert pancakes which vary depending on what we have in the house but nearly always includes a traditional lemon juice and sugar pancake. This has been our tradition for at least the last 6 or 7 years.
The pancake recipe has varied but the one we usually do now came from Delia Smith's website and is fairly reliable.
In the past we have often used a tin of chicken in white sauce and added some curry powder but this year I cooked it from scratch by finely chopping 2 chicken breasts and frying them in a little oil. I made a thick roux and added curry powder, cayenne pepper and a little turmeric before stirring in the cooked chicken. The pancakes were filled with a couple of tablespoons of the chicken curry mixture then sprinkled with grated cheese before being rolled up and rapidly eaten.
We shared three dessert pancakes this year. They were filled with chocolate coated raisins, traditional lemon juice and sugar, and golden syrup.
I first tried making sourdough a couple of weeks ago but the results weren't completely successful. It tasted ok but the starter didn't rise very well and the resulting bread was quite dense. Shortly afterwards, the starter had begun to smell a bit vinegary so I decided to throw it away and start again.
I took inspiration from a couple of sources, including River Cottage and the Baker Brothers TV series. The starter consisted of half white bread flour, half spelt flour mixed with an equal weight of water. I dropped a grape into the mixture to provide the wild yeast. I fed the starter with flour and water every day (a tablespoon of each).
After a couple of days the starter was bubbling away nicely so I removed the grape and carried on feeding it, alternating using spelt flour and white flour. After a week, it was ready to use.
The recipe I followed had 300ml of starter, 500g of flour, 200ml of water and a generous pinch of salt. I used slightly less water since last time, the mixture was very sloppy. I left the dough overnight to rise, and cooked it this morning for just under half an hour at gas mark 8.
The resulting bread was much better than my last attempt. It was still fairly dense but had a better texture. I will try to remember to keep feeding the starter and over the next few weeks I'll try some different variations, including a sourdough muffin recipe which I read recently.
Our semi-regular trip to Pizza Express for St. Valentine's Day.
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We finally finished the tub of mascarpone today. I made the pasta bake on monday. The sauce was based on a small quantity of Heston-style cheese sauce with half of the mascarpone mixed in, along with one egg. I added fried veg, diced chicken, and cooked macaroni (from about 300g of dried). Everything got mixed together and put in a pyrex, sprinkled with mixed seeds and grated cheese, then baked in the oven for about 40 minutes.
We have 2 pyrex dishes and if we make a pasta bake to fit the larger of them, it is enough for 4 portions so it lasts us for 2 days. We had the second half today.
The final last bits of the mascarpone were actually eaten with a chocolate eclair for pudding, after we got back from the shops. The eclairs weren't planned. They were reduced at M&S because they had reached their sell-by date.
We bought a big tub of mascarpone the other day which means we have had to find enough ways to use it before it starts to go off.
The first use was nice and straightforward: We dolloped a bit on a toasted hot cross bun.
Today I made a chicken and butternut squash risotto following the standard risotto method: I fried some diced squash, finely chopped leeks, garlic, and a pinch of dried chilli. I'm not sure if I've mentioned this before but when we have a glut of chillies, I make my own dried chilli. I slice the chillies in half lengthways then put them on a sheet of kitchen roll in a small metal tray, which I then put on the radiator for a week or so. I then smash the chillies up using a small food processor.
Back to the risotto. After adding the chilli I added risotto rice and home made chicken stock. When the rice was roughly half cooked, I added some diced cooked chicken and a generous pinch of salt. When it was all fully cooked I added a generous heaped tablespoon of the mascarpone and stirred it in. The risotto was very rich and creamy and the mascarpone seemed to help keep it fairly firm, instead of going sloppy which can sometimes happen when I use ordinary cream cheese.
Tomorrow I will make a pasta bake. The mascarpone and a beaten egg should hold the pasta together well so it doesn't collapse too much when I serve. I will find out tomorrow.
A couple of days ago I had a go at making Heston's cheese sauce. The big difference between his recipe and a traditional one is that you don't start with a roux. The sauce base was white wine and chicken stock, instead of milk. The wine was reduced then the stock was added and heated. The cheese was finely grated then mixed with cornflour before being stirred into the wine/stock mixture.
The end result was a very smooth sauce but the stock flavour was a bit too strong. I will experiment further but next time I might use milk and wine or milk and stock.
My next new recipe was a sourdough bread. This was based on the recipe from the Fabulous Baker Brothers TV series. I made the starter last week using spelt flour, and fed it each day with a bit more flour and water.
I made the dough yesterday and left it to 'prove' overnight before baking it this morning on the pizza stone at gas mark 8. For a first attempt I am reasonably happy with the results. Since the starter was fairly young, the 'sourdough' flavour was quite light but it was a good loaf. I have just realised that this is probably the first loaf of bread I have made completely on my own.
Next time I might make the dough a bit stiffer since I think this one was a bit wet and sticky. The bread had a big hollow bit in the middle, like a giant pitta bread, so we sliced it in half horizontally and made a fried egg sandwich for our breakfast.
We were watching the latest episode of How to cook like Heston on Channel 4 and he was demonstrating his method of making a cheese sauce and then using that to make a macaroni cheese. I was in the middle of cooking a chicken, sweet potato and butternut squash curry but I thought "I'd rather be eating that instead".
It's always amusing when you see an old person in a supermarket start running with a trolley then pick their feet up and let the momentum of the trolley carry them forwards. You can almost hear them thinking 'wheeeee' as they go. For some reason, it's nearly always a man doing it.