There is more in you of good than you know, child of the kindly West. Some courage and some wisdom, blended in measure. If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world. But sad or merry, I must leave it now. Farewell!
Thorin Oakenshield (from J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit)
I know that these past few days have been all about Writing 101 and today is no different, but I wanted to combine three things at once. I know you won’t mind, mainly because there’s a recipe at the end. You have all been so good. Even though many of you come here for the food and photos, you have been so positive and supportive of my other non-foodie ones. I’m thankful. Truly. On to the quote.
Continue reading Walnut and Banana Loaf (For Writing 101: Hook Em’ With a Quote and #TeaandCakeTuesday)
My only regret while living in the US is the fact that we didn’t travel much. There was no logical reason for this but hey, that’s life sometimes. Having said that, we did enjoy the few places that we went to. We moved straight to Michigan for the first two years of our marriage, and after settling down in campus, we took a trip to Seattle and then Washington DC. I immediately took to Seattle. It only rained once during that week (honest) and we had the most gorgeous view of the mighty Mt. Rainier from our charming B&B. For the first time in ages I didn’t miss my family; being in a foreign country and getting used to married life proved much tougher than I imagined. But I felt relaxed and rested and I couldn’t wait to explore the city.
We ate simply – there was no eating in fancy restaurants during those years but I didn’t mind it that much. Also, since I was just a few months into my culinary journey I didn’t care much for (or rather, I did not yet discover) spices. I was raised in an environment where seasoning meant adding salt and pepper. That. Is. It. Well, perhaps a bit of curry powder or mixed spice. A bit meaning “ponta ta’ kuċċarina” loosely translated as “the tip of a teaspoon”. Do you, the 30-somethings from my little Mediterranean rock, know what I mean? I have a feeling that you do. But that’s another story. All I can say is this: luckily the tables are turning…
My imaginary love of bland food ended pretty quickly right after that trip. While staying with some friends in Washington DC, I discovered the wonderful world of Mexican food. I asked J why we never tried it before. The answer he gave me was something on the lines of I-did-not-know-you-would-like-it-so-much. A good answer…
I am *not* a food expert though and I haven’t done sufficient research on authentic Mexican grub but I like to think I make a good cornbread. It’s one of J’s favourite things and it’s really easy to prepare. We had a Mexican night at home very recently (minus Tequila, *sigh* ha!). It was so much fun – we really should do it more often. Here’s our take on cornbread. It’s great with guacamole or tomato salsa, or both!
Just a note before we start: preferably you would need a cast iron tin for this recipe, but don’t fret if you don’t have one. A good thing to try is to put a non-stick loaf tin in the oven while it is preheating.* When the oven preheats and the batter ready, take the pan out of the oven and tip the mixture in it. Be careful how to do this – the tin will obviously be very hot. You will need:
- 190g sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 230g plain flour
- 95g yellow cornmeal
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 egg, lightly beaten
- 200ml milk
- 120ml corn oil or vegetable oil
- 10ml orange juice (with the pulp removed)
- Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C.*
- Place the sugar,salt, flour, cornmeal and baking powder in a large bowl and mix them well together using a whisk.
- In another mixing bowl or a large measuring jug tip in the beaten egg, milk, oil and orange juice.
- Add the wet ingredients to the dry ones and mix well. You need some elbow grease for this one but I use a whisk. There’s no need for any electric mixers.
- Take the loaf tin out of the preheated oven and spray the very hot tin with non-stick baking spray. Tip the cornbread mixture into the cake tin and bake for around 1hour. As always, keep an eye on it and when it turns golden insert a knife or skewer in the middle. Let it cool slightly in the tin, then take it out and serve warm.
It will keep for two days in foil, but you could also freeze it for up to a month.
For more Mexican recipes (or Mexican-inspired) there’s a list for you here. There will be more recipes from my Mexican fiesta to come. Enjoy!
I noticed that some people are searching for “baking equipment” or “things used for baking” in this blog. I am very flattered, so thank you. I haven’t written a post specifically about this mainly because I’m no pastry chef, even though you might say that I live to bake. And you will obviously be correct. I have no fancy gadgets and till now haven’t really baked anything that complicated. Now you might also know that I love gadgets (and I blame J for that!) but since moving to the UK from sunny Malta I lack storage space and I cannot purchase extra mixers or anything really bulky.
So you see, my faithful companions on my baking journey, at least for now that is, are:
- my mixing bowls (vintage looking because I’m a girl and I like that kind of stuff, but I miss my stainless ones, alas still residing in Malta);
- my three whisks, a teeny one for dressings or tiny amounts of glaze, another one that I should keep in my bag with my purse, lipgloss and powder (my just-in-case one…an inside joke, sorry – hi mum!) but since I don’t go out much I always keep it in the kitchen drawer, and a big one, for whipping extraordinary amounts of cream, eggs, sugar and the likes;
- a sieve;
- an electric beater I hardly use (but will do so next time I decide to make James Tanner’s delicious whisky brownies, to avoid carpal tunnel syndrome while whisking that luscious sabayon);
- my selection of spatulas (for scraping out every bit of that yummy cake mixture);
- one large angled spatula (for covering cakes with butter icing or buttercream frosting);
- one measuring jug (it’s quite smallish so I think I might need another one but we’ll see…);
- a large stainless steel spoon and a wooden spoon (I have more than one of each, but you don’t need that much…really);
- a rolling pin for that lovely pizza dough that I know you’ll want to make very soon (very user friendly – much easier to handle than shortcrust, which is fragile in comparison);
- my trusty muffins tins (I have two, one of which I bought in the US, looks like an army truck and is indestructible);
- my two springform cake tins (8 inch – for two tier sponges with delicious creamy fillings, and cheesecakes);
- another two sandwich tins (mine are a little too large, so I wish I had 8 inch ones too);
- two cookie trays;
- plenty of baking parchment/paper.
What I do have, unfortunately not here with me, is my Professional KitchenAid mixer. It was too bulky to ship. I don’t plan to buy another one, mainly due to the expense…but never say never. You don’t need it for basic baking or if you are just started learning, so please don’t rush anywhere to buy one!
I also want to add this: I found that the best way for melting chocolate (dark and milk) is in a bowl heated over a small pot of simmering water. I may be old school, but the microwave doesn’t do it for me. You will also find you will have more control (and you will be less likely to burn it). Just make sure that the bowl in which the chocolate is melting doesn’t touch the water. Stir with a wooden spoon once in a while. So you don’t need any special gadget here either.
I think that is all but I might have something else lurking in the cupboards. In that case I’ll keep you posted! Take care of yourselves and Happy Baking.