The Best Damn Cornbread Muffins I Have Ever Made

cornbread muffins

First of all. My apologies. I haven’t posted in such a long time! One of my New Year’s resolutions was to post more, maybe once a week. Oops. But we know how resolutions normally go. Life has just got in the way with all sort of exciting events, trips and parties.

But I’m back now and since Thanksgiving has happened and, though not myself an American, some friends and I gather every year for a Thanksgiving Potluck. Which is *always* something I look forward to in my culinary calendar. This is a recipe from that. I made 2 things that night, a key lime meringue pie and these amazing muffins. I couldn’t believe how yummy these turned out, they’re the savoury variety, gluten-free and made with greek yogurt instead of buttermilk (as I always seem to be too lazy to get to a store that sells it) so I’m going to bravely say they’re healthier too – though I could be lying, they are just too damn delicious. These are way better and less fussy to make than my Spicy Tomato Cornbread so I’m really digging these right now. Makes 12.

Cornbread Muffins:
85 g melted butter, plus extra for frying
 2 x 198 g tins of sweetcorn, drained
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tbsp whole dried chillies
1 tbsp oregano
1 tbsp paprika
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
110 g plain flour (I used gluten-free)
140 g polenta or cornmeal, fine variety
2 tsp baking powder
small pinch of salt
100 g sharp cheddar cheese, coarsely grated
2 eggs
290 ml Greek yogurt
110 ml whole milk

Oven to 200°C. With a pastry brush, generously brush the melted butter in a 12 hole muffin tin. I ended up with about a 5mm pool collected at the bottom of each tin.

Next you want to add a small amount of butter to a frying pan at medium heat, and fry up the onions, garlic and sweetcorn. In a pestle and mortar smash-up the whole friend chillies. This seems like a lot of chilli, but you’ll be surprised how much baking these takes the heat out. This is just enough for a kick of heat as you’re eating them with your meal. No point of adding chilli to anything if you can’t taste it! Now add these crushed chillies, oregano, paprika and cayenne to the flying pan. Fry for about a minute until fragrant.

Mix the flour, polenta, baking powder, cheese and salt in a large mixing bowl. In a smaller mixing jug, whisk your eggs, yogurt and milk together. Pour the eggs and dairy into the mixing bowl with dry ingredients, now add the corn and herbs. Gently mix all of this with a wooden spoon until just incorporated.

Divide this all equally into the muffin tray and bake for 25-30 minutes. They should have nicely risen, smell amazing and look lovely and golden brown. Eat them warmed up, you won’t regret making these. So yummy!

Slow Cooker Conjee (Jook) 粥

congeeUrghhhh. I have been so ill this week, which coincided with me freelancing at a new company whom I wanted to impress and continue working for so I’ve been rather run down. But it’s Friday evening and the client seems happy with the animations, so happy days! I’ve been forced to do a lot of overtime so I decided to give my slow cooker a whirl while I was at work so I could just head home to eat with the little energy that I had and head straight to bed loaded with paracetamol.

It worked I think, in that I managed to produce silky smooth congee that reminded me of the comforting healing flavours of my childhood (mmmm….rice gruel) as well as reducing that cooking time and allowing me to rest more. This is a recipe for a basic congee, it’ll do 4-6 servings depending on how hungry you are. To this I added some fish at the very end, but we’ll get to that bit later.

Basic Congee Recipe:
1 cup jasmine or basmati rice
8-9 cups water
a 2 inch bit of ginger, peeled
salt & white pepper to taste

Super easy. Use a meat tenderiser mallet or the flat side of a cleaver and smash that pealed ginger a bit to release more flavours while you cook. Whack the ginger, rice and water into the slow cooker and set it on low for 8-12 hours. Your basically done! Season to taste when ready.

Mine needed a cup more water after a 12 hour shift so adjust accordingly really, but it’s super simple to then portion out what you want to eat in a small pot on the stove to make it the perfect consistency. This technique is also good because congee usually  forever to cook nicely without rice water bubbling everywhere, so my mother will be pleased to note that this is a very clean and hassle free way of cooking jook.

To this basic recipe you then what to add other ingredients. Classics like pork with thousand-year old egg and numerous other combinations come to mind. But I only had a bit of fish in my fridge so I sliced the fillet diagonally, and marinated that with a bit of cornstarch, soy, white pepper and thinly sliced ginger. Then I cooked it very slowly over low heat and served with spring onions and a splash of soy and sesame oil. But I love this comforting rice gruel so I’ll post more recipes along this congee tangent later.

Gluten Free Banana Bread

Gluten Free Banana Bread

Success! After about two failed loafs I have now cracked a gluten-free recipe for some tasty banana bread. I’ve been experimenting with my own mixture of cornmeal, rice flour and almond flour but the results were too firm and too dry. So I caved and bought some Dove Farm white flour and tweaked my recipe accordingly. I’ve definitely just eaten a slice and it’s really yummy! So I can finally post it up.

To make things even better, in my supreme efficiency (or let’s be honest: laziness) it’s all just 1 pot and so fast to knock up! So if you have a stand mixer, don’t even bother mashing the bananas, if you’ve only got a hand-held one, maybe mash them up a bit with a fork.

Gluten Free Banana Bread:
2 cups gluten-free plain flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp vanilla essence
1/2 a block of butter softened (125 g)
3/4 cup light soft brown sugar (150 g)
2 eggs
6 ripe bananas (one set aside for decorating)
3 tbsp soft dark sugar
1-2 tbsp hot water

Oven onto 170°C. In your mixing bowl put the flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt in. Stir these dry ingredients up a bit. Then add the vanilla essence, butter, light brown sugar, eggs and 5 bananas (remember to set one of the 6 aside).

Now turn the mixer on low to medium speed and prep your bread pan.

Butter the pan thoroughly and place a greaseproof sheet at the bottom. The mixing should be done now so pour in your batter. Slice lengthways your banana for decorating and place on top.

In a small bowl mix the 2 tbsp of dark soft sugar with just enough hot water to dissolve it all. With a pastry brush, carefully  wash the top of the raw batter mixture and banana with 2/3 of the sugar mix. While this bakes it should turn into a crunchy caramel topping.

Bake for 60-65 mins, or until a skewer comes out clean. In the final 5 minutes use the remaining sugar wash. Leave the banana bread in the pan for another 10-15 minutes before removing and it should come out really easily after you go round the edges with a knife.

I couldn’t help but try a still warm piece straight away! Honestly, fastest bake to blog post ever.

‘Gluten Sensitive’ & Buttermilk Free: Spicy Tomato Cornbread

cornbread

I was really struggling with the title for this post. But essentially this is a gluten sensitive bread baked with cornmeal and spelt flour, it’s at this point that I should add that if you’re a celiac or very sensitive to gluten you should probably replace this with a gluten-free flour of your desire (rice flour works well). Anyway, I’ve always loved cornbread, but maybe because I’m a bit greedy, I have always preferred the loaded variety. So within the bread you’ll find kernels or corn, bits of chilli, oven dried tomatoes and waves of cumin. This is also a buttermilk free recipe and I’ve substituted it with almond milk, mostly because buttermilk is just so damn hard to find (read: it wasn’t in any of my local shops with in a 100 metre walking radius to my flat)…and I really just wanted to eat warmed slices of this bread with butter and Vegemite dammit! Would also work quite well with plain yogurt instead of the almond milk if you want it to be richer.

It’s a fast bread to make (bonus) and bakes in a large 9 inch bread tin, but I split it into 2 tins just in case it rose too much.

Spicy Tomato Cornbread:
2 cups cornmeal
3/4 cups spelt or gluten free flour
3 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp honey
1.5 cups almond milk
2 large eggs
70 g butter - melted
handful cherry tomatoes
1 tbsp cumin seeds
1 tbsp paprika
1 small red onion - diced
3-5 birds eye chillies - diced
1 cup corn kernels

First get the oven to 200 °C and prep your baking tins with butter and line the bottom with baking parchment. Quarter the cherry tomatoes and place them on a lined baking tray, evenly space each of the quarters out. Liberally sprinkle with the cumin seeds and paprika with a pinch of salt and cracked black pepper to season. Place the tomatoes in the oven and wait for them to cook down, maybe 20 minutes. While that’s cooking, melt the butter and set aside. Get the cornmeal, flour, teaspoon of salt, baking powder, sugar into a stand mixer (or mix by hand if you’d like, you must have strong arms) on medium speed until well combined. In a separate jug, mix the eggs, butter, almond milk and honey. Poor this mixture in with the dry ingredients slowly until incorporated. Remove the bowl from the mixer and use a spatula to fold in the tomatoes and all the spices (slide everything off that baking sheet), then add the onion, chilli and corn until everything is gently but evenly dispersed.

Put the mixture into you prepped baking tins and bake for at least 40 minutes. But keep checking with a skewer to see if your bread’s done. It should be golden brown on the top and the skewer should come out clean. Turn out of tins and cool.

I couldn’t resist eating a couple of slices of this hot out of the oven with some butter and said Vegemite. It was a craving that just had to be done. Also had some with Marmite. Just as good. Later in the evening I had this with chicken stew…you know it’s just so damn tasty…

Overnight Oats or Bircher Muesli Basic Recipe

bircher muesli

Breakfasts for a long time now have been a staple of scrambled eggs, with some slices of avocado or smoked salmon. But the season’s have started to change and all I want to eat now appears to be fruit salad and plain yogurt. In the interest of keeping things interesting I’ve started experimenting with various recipes of Bircher muesli or overnight oats. I’ve recently been buying some gluten-free oats and it’s opened up a whole new thankful world of porridge again, albeit the cold variety.

This is a mega adaptable and incredibly easy as it’s all about doing it quickly the night before and you don’t really want to be faffing around with too many measuring cups. This is enough for two tumblers full, so serves two.

Bircher Muesli Basic Recipe:
1 apple or Asian pear
1/2 cup oats
1/2 cup natural set yogurt
1/2 cup fruit juice
1/4 cup raisins or saltanas
Handful of fruit and nuts to serve
Honey should you fancy it

Peel the apple or pear. I’ve used Granny Smiths, Pink Ladies and nashi pears. Anything firm and tart is good. Grate the apple through a medium grate or the finest tooth setting on a mandolin and chop it up into extra fine bits. Add this to a large mixing bowl with the oats, yogurt, raisins and juice. For the juice you can go with apple, orange, pear or even pineapple juice. The last batch I made with apple and mango juice and it was lovely. Stir everything together and put them into some tumblers and leave in the fridge overnight for the next morning. When ready to eat, garnish with some fresh fruit and nuts and maybe a drizzle of honey should you want it. Maybe even a sprinkling of cinnamon or flaxseed. Go nuts.

So easy, fresh and satisfying.

Polenta Pizza

Guys! Guys! Guys! So I’ve not posted savoury food for a while, not because I haven’t been eating (obviously) but because I hadn’t cooked anything that I thought was inspired enough to wax lyrical about. But by the exclamation mark count at a massive three already – here is me waxing lyrical.

Yesterday after what would rank up there as the most Relaxing Sunday Ever where myself and a significant person went for an all day wander through a park which culminated in an impromptu coffee with a friend, said significant person and I decided to make some homemade pizza for dinner. Only what with me not eating gluten we decided to make a polenta pizza and it was so flipping good! Honestly, you don’t even have to be gluten intolerant to enjoy this. Other massive bonus. It can be relatively easy to knock up as you don’t have to wait for the dough to prove. Essentially you’re cooking up some polenta in the traditional manner, but making it as thick as possible so it sets quicker and has a bit more structure post bake. Toppings wise we just went classic with a bit of tomato sauce (but made with plum vine tomatoes), mozzarella, and some slices of cured Spanish ham.

Polenta Pizza Base:
700 ml vegetable stock
170 g polenta, coarse type favoured
100 g grated parmesan
Pizza Toppings:
125 g mozzarella
200 g approx. tomato sauce
6 slices of cured ham - lomo in this case
1 tbsp chopped fresh rosemary
drizzle of extra virgin olive oil to finnish
crushed black paper and sea salt

Oil a non stock pan big enough for your pizza.

In a saucepan at medium heat, bring your stock to a boil and while whisking furiously in one direction only (to avoid clumps) add your polenta in a fine stream. Keep stirring at all times to avoid your polenta from sticking to the pan and get this mixture nice and thick and reduced. You want to get it so thick that when you whisk it barely settles back in the pan. At this stage, probably 15-20 minutes down the line (read: strong arms), you want to add the grated parmesan.

Quickly pour your polenta on the previously prepped pan and use the bake of a metal spoon spread out a pizza base shape, complete with slightly raised crust along the edge. Work fast, this will set quickly. Set this aside to cool.

While this is cooling get that oven to 220°C. Make your tomato sauce and prep your toppings. Once your oven is to temperature and your polenta is sufficiently set (cool to the touch and has a nice bounce to it), quickly dress the pizza. Save the olive oil, salt and pepper for when it’s fresh out of the oven. Whack your pizza in and bake it until it’s nice and browned on the crust and the cheese is bubbling. Ours took approximately 20 minutes.

Carefully use a spatula to loosen the pizza from the pan, you should know that the bake is good because it will be crispy on the bottom. Sprinkle on some salt and pepper and drizzle that olive oil. Eat immediately.

I cannot express the sheer amount of pleasure this dish produced, if you’re talking about a great dish of soul food, this is certainly up there and resulted in me doing a happy food dance before I chowed down.

Limoncello

Homemade Limoncello

It’s Christmas time! My second favourite time of the year to Chinese New Year mostly because of all the special food you get to make and eat. I’m about to churn out a lot of goodies for several parties and here’s just one thing on the menu which is dead easy to make in advance. What a beautiful alcoholic lemony snow globe.

Limoncello:
500 ml vodka
500 ml vanilla vodka
Zest of 6 unwaxed lemons
500 g caster sugar
200 ml water

Decant the vodka into a large container or bottle. Zest the lemons and mix the zest into the vodka.

Use a funnel and get the sugar into the vodka. Leave for a week while turning and mixing it up occasionally. After a week, sieve off the zest and decant your limoncello back into bottles. It’s at this point you can add the water if the mixture is too thick. Finally add a twirl of lemon zest as decoration. This will only get better with age and I’m meant to leave it for another week. But by golly it’s already so damn tasty, I don’t know how to resist!

Salted Caramel Sauce

salted caramel sauce

Good grief. Do you know what I realised? Minikin Kitchen is 1 year old today! It’s been an interesting experiment into cooking and blogging. I just discovered a recipe of mine doing the rounds on Pinterest which is rather exciting. As I started this thing on Halloween and I’m prepping some treats for a Halloween party tomorrow, I thought I’d post something that I just knocked up. Be warned this stuff is way too ‘I’ll just dip my pinky into it’ addictive and anyone *anyone* who tells you they don’t like salted caramel is a bloody liar.

Salted Caramel:
1/2 cup caster sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
110g butter
1/2 cup double cream
1 tbsp sea salt flakes

On medium to high heat, get a heavy bottomed stove on and melt your sugar. With a metal spoon, only stir the sugar occasionally to help it all dissolve evenly. If you want to use a sugar thermometer, you want this to reach 175°C but I have to admit, I kinda eyeballed this. You want it a rich golden brown colour and basically don’t want it to burn. Once it reaches the desired temp, add the butter and double cream and stir well. Now add the salt and set this aside to cool.

The temperature of the sugar really dictates the viscosity of this sauce, you’ll notice I’ve made a bit on the fudgy side, but if you want a runnier constancy add more double cream. I basically add this to most things. I drizzle it over yogurt, ice cream, pancakes, filled macarons with it…I even put it in the freezer to firm up and rolled little salt caramel balls and stuffed them in homemade chocolate truffles (stroke of genius if I do say so myself).

Addictive and indulgent. A fitting birthday post.

Charred Aubergine with Tahini & Yogurt

Charred Aubergine Dip

I’ve just come back from Puglia in the south of Italy with a group of friends. It was a cycling trip where we essentially cycled our bikes, swam in the azure seas and cycled some more until we were hungry, then proceeded to eat and drink an awful lot. The food there is so earnest and simple. They have access to some of the most incredible ingredients in the world because of their amazing climate, so they’re only interested in basic cooking to elevate the natural flavours. I’m really in to that.

Back in London we are in the midsts of this weird Summer vibe where it seems that the general en-mass willing of summer not to be over *just* yet has resulted in some pretty warm october nights. This dip is something I prepared as part of a romantic picnic in the summer solstice, so it seems only fitting to revisit it again with the warm hazy glow of Puglia and my own Londonian attempts to squeeze the very last of summer out. It’s simple and delicious.

Charred Aubergine with Tahini & Yogurt (Serves 2-4):
1 large aubergine
70g tahini paste
60 ml water
1 tbsp pomegranate molasses
1 generous squeeze of a lemon
1 garlic clove - crushed
3 mini cucumbers - diced
seeds from half a pomegranate
3 tbsp parsley - roughly chopped
2-3 generous dollops of greek yogurt
a drizzle of olive oil
1 tsp paprika
salt and pepper

On a gas hob, place the aubergine directly onto a medium flame and roast for 12-15 minutes, turning frequently. The flesh should end up soft and smoky with the skin burnt all over. Alternatively, if you haven’t got gas hobs, crank up that oven high, 200°C maybe, and whack your aubergine in and keep turning it in that heat. 20-40 minutes in, the skin should also char and the aubergine should sag telling you the flesh is all lovely and soft. On a similar warning to my last aubergine post: Poke a couple of holes near the stem part of the aubergine to stop it exploding in the oven.

Once your aubergine is done, transfer all that lovely soft flesh into a medium mixing bowl. To this add the tahini, molasses, water, lemon juice, garlic, cucumber, parsley, paprika, yogurt, half the pomegranate seeds and some salt and pepper. Adjust the seasoning to your liking. Drizzle with olive oil and the rest of the pomegranate seeds to finish. Eat!

Vietnamese Grilled Aubergine with Nouc Cham Sauce

vietnamese grilled aubergineIt’s been too hot in my flat. So all I want to cook of late is dips, salads and wraps. Oh Vietnamese food, you have so many dishes I adore under this category…

Aubergines are in season and this dish is one of my favourite and simplest dishes to rustle up with said veg. But mostly its the delicious nouc cham that I love, so crack open an empty jam jar and make a load of this addictive sauce.

Nouc Cham Sauce:
100 ml fish sauce
100 ml of water
125 g brown sugar
4 cloves of garlic - minced
4 bird's eye chillies - deseeded and finely chopped
Juice of 1 lime
1 carrot - finely shredded

Mix up the fish sauce, sugar and water. Add to this the garlic, chilli, lime juice and shredded carrot. Thoroughly stir it all up and keep it in the fridge until you’re ready to use.

Now you’re ready to grill your aubergine.

Grilled  Aubergine:
1 large aubergine
3 tbsp nouc cham sauce
Handful of peanuts - toasted
1 tbsp spring onions - finely chopped
Some coriander to garnish

Get the grill on high. Pierce your aubergine near the leafy bits a could of time to stop the Exploding Aubergine from happening (this has happened to me twice…I had to scrape the oven clean of the perfectly cooked bits of veggie shrapnel). Put the whole aubergine in whole and just keep an eye on it, turn it ever so often and the skin doesn’t burn beyond the nice charred flavour. Depending on your oven and grill it should take about 20-40 minutes. If you want to can oven roast it first at around 200°C then finish it off on the grill. Once it soft and sagging you’re ready!

Place the aubergine on a dish and slice it open. Add to this the nouc cham sauce, the toasted peanuts, coriander and spring onions.

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