Right now is a great time of year to be eating kale. Although it’s available all year round in it’s curly variety in most supermarkets, it’s in season between September and February and so at this time of year you might be able to get your mitts on some more interesting varieties. Plus, we’re all trying to be a little virtuous in January, and kale is a vitamin and mineral dense vegetable, packed with Vitamin C, calcium and beta carotene (which no-one really knows what it is, but hey-ho it sounds super healthy). The kale I’ve used in this recipe was grown by my dad at his allotment and is called cavolo nero (“black cabbage” in Italian, where the variety originates). If you can find cavolo nero to use in this recipe then great – it goes perfectly in stews and soups – but if not then use any kale or cabbage that you like.
This recipe is the godsend of all store-cupboard meals. I do think that the combinations below work particularly well, but the beauty is that you can use whatever veggies you have in the vegetable drawer, whatever meat (bacon, sausages, chorizo would all be great) you have in the fridge and any type of beans or pasta shape that you have in the cupboard.
Ingredients (serves 4-6) 100g (about 6 rashers) streaky bacon 1 white onion 2 medium carrots 2 celery sticks 2 garlic cloves 1 tsp tomato puree 1.5l vegetable stock 1 tin or carton of chopped tomato 6-8 large cavolo nero leaves 100g spaghetti 1 tin cannellini beans Olive oil Salt and pepper
Optional topping suggestions: basil pesto, grated parmesan, chopped basil, chopped parsley, croutons
Method 1. Chop the bacon into small pieces.
2. Finely chop the onion and garlic, thinly slice the celery and dice the carrot.
Fry altogether in the remaining bacon fat (topped up with a little olive oil if necessary) for 10 minutes until soft.
I love reading cookbooks. It may seem strange (or, in fact, perfectly normal to any foodies out there), but there is something exciting about starting at the beginning of a new cookbook, reading the introduction, leafing through all the recipes, learning about the author and marking the pages of particularly tasty-sounding recipes with cute little post-it notes. To be honest, lots of these dishes end up never being cooked, but it’s fun to plan and it’s good to get new inspiration for recipes. Christmas is the best time of year to receive gifts of cookbooks, as Christmas Day and Boxing Day were just made for lounging in your pajamas while reading books, right? This year I got Tom Kerridge’s Best Ever Dishes (one of my current favourite chefs), Mimi Thorisson’s A Kitchen in France (which is one of the most delightful cookbooks to read, ever) and The Magnolia Bakery Cookbook. There may well be some recipes to come on this blog from the first two of these books, but today we’re all about muffins and so obviously we turn to the Magnolia Bakery’s book.
This recipe is almost exactly the same as the recipe in the Magnolia Bakery’s book – we’re using the same ratios of flour to eggs to sugar to butter, and throwing in some deliciously sour buttermilk, as they do, for good measure. I swapped castor sugar for brown sugar, for a hint of caramel , and, inspired by this article by Felicity Cook I went for a double blueberry hit. The trick is to use both fresh and frozen blueberries; the fresh ones mashed and folded through the batter in order to give an even blueberry flavour, and the frozen ones stirred in whole to give those essential blueberry explosions.
A note on buttermilk: this is actually now readily available from loads of shops and supermarkets, but if you can’t find any then simply mix up natural yogurt with a little bit of milk for the same effect.
Ingredients (makes 9 muffins) 250g plain flour 1 tbsp baking powder 110g brown sugar ¼ tsp salt 1 large egg 240ml buttermilk ( or 60ml milk and 180ml natural yogurt) 60g butter, melted 1 tsp vanilla 75g fresh blueberries
75g frozen blueberries
Method 1. Preheat the oven to 180C/160C fan/Gas Mark 4. Sift the flour and baking powder into a large bowl.
2. Stir through the sugar and salt until well combined – try to break up any lumps that there might be in the brown sugar.
3. Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients and add the egg, buttermilk, butter and vanilla. Stir to combine, but don’t over-mix.
4. Mash the fresh blueberries with a fork and gently fold through the muffin batter.
5. Stir the frozen blueberries into the mixture, reserving a few for the tops of the muffins. Top tip!…you can toss the blueberries in a teaspoon of flour if you like, which stops them all dropping to the bottom of the muffins.
6. Fill 9 muffin cases nearly to the top and stud with the remaining frozen blueberries.
7. Bake for 25-30 minutes until the muffins are golden brown.
Leave the muffins to cool on a wire rack, though I imagine they would be divine while still warm, especially if you’re having them for breakfast or brunch.
The perfect accompaniment to a cup of tea, when you’re looking for an afternoon pick-me-up.
Happy New Year gorgeous readers! I hope your festive break was filled to the brim with your favourite people, your favourite food and drink, and your favourite films, music, books and games. I know mine certainly was, and so much more. I can’t remember the last time I laughed so much. You know that kind of laughter that makes your stomach and throat hurt and your breathing difficult? Yeah, that.
And so now it is January. The fruit bowl has been piled high, the vegetable drawer in the fridge is stuffed full and gym memberships have been renewed with gusto. I have just discovered Yoga with Adriene’s 30 Days of Yoga and what a revelation it is. I had forgotten how amazing just a short yoga practice every day is, plus there is the bonus that Adriene is an absolute babe. Serious babe crush going on.
But on the other hand, we are still in the depths of winter. The days may be getting gradually longer, but it really doesn’t feel like it right now. So let’s all agree that we still need some comfort food every now and then, yeah? We can stick to stir-fry and steamed vegetables and baked fish during the week, but on a Sunday night let’s snuggle up together on the sofa, wearing our comfiest pyjamas, with steaming bowls of stew and glasses of red wine. Cheers to that.
Ingredients (serves 2-3) 1 generous tbsp dried ceps (aka porcini mushrooms) 2 small onions, finely chopped 1 large clove of garlic, finely chopped 2-3 small carrots, cut into chunky wedges 2 medium parsnips (or in my case, one daddy, one mummy and one baby parsnip), cut into chunky wedges 350g beef shin 180g mushrooms, either cup or button Large glass of red wine 2 bay leaves 1 tbsp redcurrant jelly Olive oil
Salt and pepper
Method 1. Preheat the oven to 160C/140C fan/Gas mark 2. Lightly crush the dried ceps in a mortar and pestle.
Cover with a few tablespoons of hot water and leave to soak. 2. Heat a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in a casserole pot or pan and gently fry the onion and garlic over a low heat for 5-10 minutes until soft and just beginning to brown.
3. Turn the heat up so the onions sizzle and add the carrots and parsnips, mixing well to coat them in oil. Allow the vegetables to cook for another 5 minutes.
4. Remove the vegetables from the pan and set aside. Add a little more olive oil and wait until very hot. Generously season the beef shin with salt and pepper and add to the hot pan. Fry on a very high heat for a couple of minutes until brown and caramelised on both sides.
5. Pour the wine into the pan and bubble for 3-5 minutes to reduce the liquid by about one third.
6. Add the vegetables back into the pan, along with the now-rehydrated ceps (including the soaking water), and stir. Season and tuck a couple of bay leaves into the stew, pop the lid on the pan and put into the oven.
7. Remove the stalks from the mushrooms, peel and cut in half. If you’re using button mushrooms then skip this step and use them whole! Ain’t nobody got time for that.
8. After an hour and a half remove the stew from the oven and stir in the mushrooms and redcurrant jelly. If necessary add a splash of water to the stew.
9. Continue to cook the stew in the oven for a further 30-60 minutes. The meat should be beautifully tender and the relatively large amount of fat in the cut of beef shin should have melted away into the sweet, rich liquid.
Serve with potatoes, cooked in the style of your choice, or some lovely fresh bread which you can use to mop up the delicious sauce. And of course, since it’s January, I suppose some steamed vegetables on the side will help to make us feel that little bit more virtuous.