Category Archives: Breakfast

Jarlsberg and fennel muffins

Spelt and Jarlsberg Muffins (6856)

I was thrilled to see Signe Johansen on What’s Cooking last week. Signe, who is one of my very favourite food writers, grew up in Norway. I only got hold of her first book Secrets of Scandinavian Cooking…Scandilicious a month ago I’m ashamed to say, but I’m glad I have it now. I really love this book – I wouldn’t even mention it here if I didn’t – it is a great introduction to some ingredients which are not so familiar to me. Scandi cooking is very homely, very familial. It’s cozy, something I always look for. So this is an easy recipe from Signe’s repertoire, just to get you and me started. I have been baking lots of savoury cakes lately and this fits the bill quite well. There’s spelt flour and Jarlsberg here which of course, is typically Norwegian. If you can’t get hold of spelt flour (it’s easily found in supermarkets these days though) go ahead and use all-purpose flour mixed with wholemeal wheat flour.

  •  300g wholewheat spelt flour
  • 1 tablespoon fennel seeds
  • ½ teaspoon mustard powder
  • ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoons bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 loaded tablespoon Marmite, melted with two tablespoons of boiling water
  • 150g milk
  • 1 large egg
  • 40 g butter, melted
  • 100g Jarlsberg, coarsely grated, plus extra for sprinkling on top

Spelt and Jarlsberg Muffins (6849)

Spelt and Jarlsberg Muffins (6852)

Preheat the oven to 175 degrees C for fan or 190 degrees C for non-convection, and line a 12-muffin tray with baking paper or muffin cups.

Measure the flour, fennel seeds, mustard powder, cayenne pepper, baking powder and bicarb of soda, and sift them into a large bowl, to make sure everything is distributed as evenly as possible.

Use a measuring jug for the milk, and add the melted Marmite to the jug. Add this mixture with the dry ingredients and stir for a few times before adding the grated cheese.

Distribute the muffin batter in each muffin cup, but don’t fill them to the brim. I use a small ice-cream scoop for this.

Bake for around 25-30 minutes, in the upper/upper-middle shelf of the oven.

When they are done, they should be golden brown on the top. Place them on a wire rack to cool and sprinkle more grated cheese on top.

They are good on their own but they are great with a proper brunch. One of my favourite recipes.

Spelt and Jarlsberg Muffins (6879)

Spelt and Jarlsberg Muffins (6861)

Thanks Signe!

Rob x

(Adapted from Secrets of Scandinavian Cooking…Scandilicious by Signe Johansen, Saltyard Books, 2011.)

Porridge.

Breakfast is and will continue to be the bane of my life. I’ve always loved this expression, even though it may be too melodramatic. This seems a good time to use it! Seriously though, breakfast should be the most important meal of the day, and yet it’s so tough to be creative. I don’t know about you but that’s where I am. You see, at “insanely-early-o’clock-in-the-morning” I don’t have the necessary strength to think about anything. Especially before my coffee. So I am desperately trying to find ways to make my morning meal a little more interesting.

A pantry staple in this house is porridge. Boring. Well I say this almost all the time and I can even hear you say it. And we might even be right. You see, I like porridge but I find it hard to come up with ideas on how to make it. I get bored very easily, especially when it comes to breakfast food. Apparently I’m not the only one; you only need to flip through a cookbook or two to find that in the breakfast section (if there is one) you can literally count the recipes with one hand. Well…perhaps a bit more…

So I asked some friends of mine on Facebook (real friends in case you’re asking) for simple ideas on how they like their porridge in the morning. The feedback was fantastic. These are some which I loved. (Incidentally you can tell a lot about people from the things they love, and food is one of them.) My old school friend Elaine (‘old’ as in I’ve known her since our school days! She looks fabulous!) told me she loves to add manuka honey, cinnamon, pomegranate, bananas or apples. Very sophisticated. A friend from our days in Michigan, Alice, said that she loves pumpkin and apple bakes. (She did give me the link but I cannot find it anywhere in my bookmarks.) I can totally see that – they are as sweet and lovely as her! One of my very first loyal readers, Joanne, likes oats with Greek yoghurt, mashed bananas, sunflower or pumpkin seeds (or both I’m guessing), honey and almonds. Great combo. Lovely, happy ingredients, just like her smile. An interesting (in the positive sense) and one of my favourites is Edward’s take: coconut or honey, one or two drops of vanilla and flaked almonds. The best ideas in life are the simplest ones. (Could this be Ed’s mantra?)

I would add some chocolate chips with the coconut version, but that’s just because I love chocolate in anything! However I was being good so last week I made mine with a pinch of salt and a spoonful of golden syrup. (As if adding golden syrup is good! *snort*) Incidentally this would be a great meal just before heading to town to watch the Olympic torch passing through, which for us is today. Thank goodness I won’t be the one doing the running. If you are reading this and you have more ideas please share…It’ll be great! In the meantime here’s a recipe by Nigel Slater to get you started:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2012/mar/04/nigel-slater-classic-porridge-recipe

Ignore any superstitions! Enjoy!

Rob x

Soggy muffins…

Apple-and-Cinnamon-Muffins-(5413)

I had not baked something sweet in a little while and decided that yesterday was the time to bake muffins. Now let it be known that muffins are the bane of my life at the moment. They never were, but since I’ve moved house I can never ever get them right. I’ve lost my touch. Lately I’ve been sharing my bakes with my lovely neighbour. (It’s the least I can do to thank her for taking the time to take care of all the building’s needs and for letting me vent when something is wrong!) But I didn’t give her any this time because frankly they’re not presentable, though they do taste good. Mind you, they look great actually, but they are not so nice to look at from the inside. Never judge a book by its cover. Before I continue I want to say that generally I try a recipe more than once before I write about it, but this time I just had to make an exception.

I was so disappointed that I took the time to discuss the result with J. He’s great at these things because he’s very calm and rational about these sorts of things. So while I was whining and going on a never-ending rant about how much of a failure I was (well..it’s a little bit over the top but I’m taking some poetic license on this), J took his time, cut one muffin in half, has a little taste and said: “One – you could cut the apples into smaller dice; two – you could even dry them in the oven for a bit; three – you could bake them for a little longer on a lesser temperature. You’ll get the hang of it, don’t worry…and if I were you I would try to make another batch tomorrow.” And that’s how from this point on I’ll think of this process as something of a post-mortem examination. Definitely seemed like it yesterday.

When I put that out on Twitter, one of my followers gave me the following idea: topping them with ice cream and chocolate and blame it all on the melting gooeyness of the ice cream. Tell you what – I was really tempted to do that! Another thing – I’m not blaming it on the recipe; I just want to try it again. One thing I will do though is to adjust it a little bit and take on board J’s suggestions. In case you’re wondering this recipe comes from Nigella Kitchen (page 130). I wanted to give them a go because they are a wonderful breakfast idea, not for everyday but they would be great for having friends or family over for brunch. I will edit in the photo later, but till then here’s the recipe for you, with some variations, for you to try should you want to. I will definitely do that this afternoon. This makes 12 muffins.

For the mixture:

  • 2 eating apples (I used Pink Lady, but you can use anything you like)
  • 250g plain flour (I used wholemeal which could have affected the texture)
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 125g light brown sugar
  • 125ml honey
  • 60ml runny yoghurt (not Greek)
  • 125ml vegetable oil
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 35g unblanched almonds, chopped

For sprinkling on top:

  • 35g unblanched almonds, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 3 tablespoons light brown sugar
  1. Preheat the oven to 200ºC/392ºF/Gas mark 6 and line the muffin tin with paper cases or  some wax paper cut into squares for a more professional look.
  2. Peel the apples and cut them into small dice. Place them to one side till they are needed.
  3. Measure the flour in a large bowl and add the baking powder and the cinnamon
  4. (1 teaspoon), and the 35g of chopped almonds.
  5. In a medium mixing bowl whisk the brown sugar (125g), honey, yoghurt, oil and eggs, until combined.
  6. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and use a wooden spoon to just combine the two. Add the chopped apples and fold them in gently. Do not over mix as you’ll end up with a very dense muffin.
  7. Using an ice cream scoop if you have one, divide the batter into the 12 cases.
  8. To make the topping, mix the ingredients together with your hands and sprinkle some on top of each muffin. Then bake for 20 minutes (what the original recipe suggests) till the muffins rise and turn golden.

I will tell you how my second attempt at these goes…wish me luck.

Rob x

Rosemary Cake

Rosemary-Loaf-(5055)

I love herbs. They bring so much taste, zest and greenness in the kitchen especially during the dullest of months. They are generally used in cooking I know, but I was really intrigued when I was flipping through Nigella’s books and found a recipe for a cake with rosemary. And incidentally, after making this I realised that it is quite a popular dessert too. I do have a confession though: rosemary is not one of my favourites. I cannot pinpoint exactly why; maybe because of it’s sometimes soapy taste and woody texture, or it could be simply because of it’s pointy shape. But there’s an endless list of savoury stuff using this particular herb, and you can be as creative as you want. It is great with chicken, though lately I don’t bother with it and use sage or tarragon instead, which works great for me.

Now I must say here that this cake was not very popular among those who had a taste. The cake itself was fine, but the rosemary bit was not to everyone’s liking. I was not surprised, but I loved not only the taste, but the aromatic smell wafting through my kitchen while it was in the oven. So even if I scared you off at the start (really…I didn’t mean to) I would recommend you give this a go. You could always serve it with some raw fruit, or a fruit compote if it’s not your cup of tea when eaten on it’s own. So here’s the recipe, taken from Nigella’s How to be a Domestic Goddess with minor variations. You need a loaf tin for this.

  • 250g unsalted butter, softened
  • 200g caster sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 210g self-raising flour
  • 90g plain flour
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 teaspoons dried rosemary, chopped but not too much
  • 60ml milk (I used semi-skimmed)
  • 2 tablespoons caster sugar, set aside for sprinkling the top

Preheat your oven to 170ºC/around 350ºF/Gas Mark 3, and line a tin loaf with some butter and baking paper.

Cream the sugar and softened butter till everything is pale and light. Beat in the eggs slowly, preferably one by one, alternating with one spoon of flour.

Add the vanilla extract, then all the remaining flour. Now it’s time to add the rosemary.
To give the batter a slightly more liquidy consistency add the 4 tablespoons of milk and mix till it’s combined with the batter.

Pour your mixture into the prepared loaf tin and sprinkle the 2 tablespoons of caster sugar on top. Bake for approximately 1 hour, until a knife comes out clean.

This cake will keep well for several days if stored in an airtight container. Like all Madeira mixtures it is ideal for tea-time. Enjoy!

Rob x

Orange Muffins

Orange-Breakfast-Muffins-(5083)

I was taught that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. But let’s be honest: how many times do we get bored with the same cereal day in day out? Countless are those times when I throw my hands in the air and simply give up! Too many times for my liking. Worse case scenario? One cup of coffee and that’s it. Not good enough. More often than not, whenever I can, I eat breakfast later in the day – I just cannot take it at 6 or 7 in the morning. So guilty as charged.

Even though I’m always up for a good English breakfast especially on holiday, I’m always looking for recipes which can be adapted or used as good options for everyday. People tell me that breakfast is the last thing on their minds at home, but when on holiday it’s the first thing they think about. Does this ring a bell? To me it certainly does.

If you look for breakfast recipes in this blog you won’t find many, but J’s pancake recipe is great for weekends, when we may have more time to potter about in the kitchen. However preparing pancakes everyday isn’t my cup of tea. So the following could be an option for you once in a while because you can prepare them a day or two before and keep them in a cool, dry place. If not they will go mouldy (it happened to me), but if you store them correctly they will keep for two to three days. These breakfast muffins are taken from Nigella Bites with minor variations. They are very easy to conjure up.

  • 80g unsalted butter, softened and slightly cooled
  • 250g self-raising flour
  • 25g ground almonds
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 80g caster sugar
  • zest and juice of 1 orange
  • 100ml milk
  • 1 egg

Line a muffin tray with paper and preheat the oven to 200ºC/395ºF/Gas Mark 6.

In a large bowl mix flour, ground almonds, baking powder, sugar and the zest of an orange.

In a smaller bowl or a jug whisk the orange juice, milk, egg and the cooled softened butter together.

Pour the liquids into the dry ingredients folding it gradually until you have a lumpy muffin mixture. Don’t worry; this is how it should be.

Divide the mixture into your muffin cases. Mine yielded 11. Bake for 20 minutes and when cool enough to handle place the muffins onto a wire rack. These are best eaten while they are still warm, but they are still good if you choose to leave some for the next day! I would comfortable eat them with unsalted butter, marmalade or jam, or perhaps even top them with some glaze or icing. I’m really getting hungry now.

So, who’s up for a spot of baking? I am. Enjoy!

Rob x