Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Thanksgiving menu

If ever there were a time for a (an American) baker to shine, it’s during the weeks between the fourth Thursday of November and 25 December. Everyone’s cooking up something, or thinking about it, or frantically searching for ingredients for it, or trying to find someone else to do it all for them.

I love the reason for Thanksgiving, and miss the pleasant hubbub that takes place back home. I explain it to British friends as Christmas without the presents, but with the encouragement to reflect on the past year and be thankful for events big and small that have brought us to where we are today. 

Cooking a big roast dinner is just too much to ask on a non-holiday Thursday night in the UK (though I have taken it as a day off in the past, when heading up a dinner for 12…), so T and I designated the following Saturday as our Thanksgiving day. The feast (and many, many leftovers) included:

- Herb encrusted turkey crown
- Roast potatoes
- Sweet and sour red cabbage with bacon
- Candied sweet potatoes
- Pork and celery stuffing (traditional Grammy recipe)
- Peas (just to have a token green vegetable)
- Gravy
- Pumpkin pie

Saturday, 26 November 2011

Apple oatmeal cookies

Oh, how often dishes and desserts come about because ‘it was what I had around at the time’.  These have a similar story – one cooking apple that really should be used, a tiny amount of maple syrup from a large bottle that’s been taking up cupboard space for months (waiting for a pancake breakfast that never seems to happen), and the need* to make something small and sweet to bring to work during the week.

These cookies have been made with whole wheat flour, a bit of butter, reduced sugar (in an effort to balance the maple syrup) but the same amount of flour and oats that you’d normally find in oatmeal cookies. They’re cakey rather than cookie-y, so adding nuts might make them all fall to pieces, but mixing in flaked almonds could work. These also might be good as bars.

*Ok, perhaps not ‘need’, but it’s nice to have a little something with that afternoon cup of tea or coffee, giving you a final jolt of caffeine and sweetness to get through the last hour or two. Who's with me?

½ cup (115g) butter
½ cup (110g) sugar
1 egg
1 cup (135g) whole wheat flour
1 cup (85g) rolled oats       
1 teaspoon baking soda
3 tablespoons maple syrup
2 teaspoons cinnamon
½ teaspoon salt
1 apple, finely chopped
Raisins (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 375F (190C). Cream butter and sugar.  Beat in the egg, maple syrup, then add the rest of the dry ingredients one at a time, with the flour and oats last. Stir in the apple and raisins.

2. Drop mixture by tablespoonfuls onto a cookie sheet (very lightly greased, if not using a non-stick cookie sheet).

3. Bake each tray for 10 minutes, or until cookies have started to brown. Cool before removing to a wire rack.

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Chinese chicken marinade

Cooking during the week is always a challenge, but one untapped area of shortcut magic that I really want to try to do more of is overnight marinating for stir fries. While yes, it does just push the work of chopping meat (yuk) mixing ingredients and clearing up afterwards from one night to a previous one, there is the reward of then preparing a meal that takes 15-20 minutes to make, with two pots and two plates’ worth of washing to do afterwards. And after a long day working and commuting, anything that can save my precious evening minutes is like being given a plateful of fresh brownies.
Mmm, brownies…maybe that’s what I’ll do with the time I’ve saved…

¼ cup (60ml) soy sauce
¼ cup (60ml) sake (or dry sherry)
4 tablespoons of chilli oil
2 tablespoons chopped ginger
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
6 green (spring) onions, chopped

Mix all the above ingredients well. Put the chopped chicken into a bowl, pour over the marinade and refrigerate overnight.
When cooking with it the next day, pour the entire contents of the bowl into a hot pan, adding any other vegetables you’d like. Season to taste.

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Pumpkin apple muffins

This could also be titled ‘what I did with my extra hour’. Clocks in the UK fell back last Sunday, and I thought that hour would be a great time to test a new recipe idea I had for muffins with both pumpkin and apple in them (but not quite the same as what I’d been finding online). So, into the kitchen I went, turned on the radio, and….someone was talking to a baker in a kitchen in Bristol who was also whipping up something delicious in her extra hour. So much for originality.

The recipe, however, turned out pretty well! I wasn’t expecting to get more than 12 out of it though, so it highlighted the fact that I could really do with another muffin tray…

(Makes 16 medium-sized muffins)

1 cups (270g) sugar
⅓ cup (80ml) vegetable oil
2 eggs
2½ cups (320g) all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon ginger
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup cooked pumpkin (forgot to weigh this one, but it should be about 250g)
1 large, tart apple, chopped
Rolled oats (optional)

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F or 180°C. Grease muffin tray, or line cups with paper.
  2. Mix the sugar and oil. Beat in the eggs. Add in the dry ingredients, but do not over-stir. Mix in the pumpkin and chopped apple.
  3. Spoon the batter into the prepared tray, filling paper about two-thirds and greased cups about  three-quarters. Sprinkle rolled oats onto the top of the batter.
  4. Bake for 40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the centre comes out clean. (Note that if you stick the toothpick into an apple, it will come out with some baked apple on it but this does not mean that the muffins aren’t done.)
  5. Leave the muffins in the tray for about 10 minutes, then place them on a wire rack to cool.