Monday, November 30, 2015

Mince Pie Muffins #MuffinMonday

Sticky fruity mince pie filling, baked in a light, fluffy muffins, flavored with orange zest! These make a lovely treat for breakfast or with a cup of tea midmorning. 

For many of my British friends, the holiday season, from mid November through December, would not be the same without mince pies. Little shortcrust pastry pies filled with mince pie filling and baked to golden, flakey perfection. Which gave me an idea for this month’s Muffin Monday.

I have to tell you that this was pure experiment. I wanted the batter to be flavored with orange zest, just like the best mince pie shortcrust and the muffins had to have a generous scoop of mince filling.

This could so easily have gone very wrong. But, in the words of one of my favorite guinea pigs, they are orgasmic. Okay, okay, she tends to hyperbole, and I don’t think I’d go that far, but these muffins are seriously good. The mince pie filling stays pretty much in one place, giving you a good couple of bites of fruit, but it is also soaks the bottom of the muffin just enough to make it a little sticky, in a very good way.

And if the crunchy orange sugar topping isn’t enough for you, go ahead and put a sprinkle of the traditional mince pie powdered sugar on the very top.

1 cup or 200g sugar
Zest 1 orange
2 cups or 250g all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup or 240ml milk
1/2 cup or 12ml canola or other light oil
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 large eggs
1 cup or about 300g mincemeat pie filling

Optional to decorate: powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 350°F or 180°C. Generously grease cups and top of 12-cup muffin or line them with paper baking cups. I give the whole baking tray, including the baking cups, a light spray of Pam.

Zest your orange into the sugar and mix well. Remove 1/4 cup or about 40g to use for topping.

Add flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt into the orange sugar. Mix well.

Then whisk together milk, oil, eggs and vanilla in another bowl.

Pour the milk mixture into the flour mixture.

Gently fold just until dry ingredients are moistened.

Spoon a little more than half of the batter into the prepared muffin pan.

Add a generous spoonful of mince pie filling to each.

Top with the remaining batter and sprinkle on the reserved orange sugar.

Bake 20-25 minutes or until muffins are golden.

Remove from oven and let cool for a few minutes before removing muffins from pan. Cool completely on a wire rack.

Sprinkle with some powdered sugar, if desired.


Check out all the lovely muffins we have for you this month!

#MuffinMonday is a group of muffin loving bakers who get together once a month to bake muffins. You can see all our of lovely muffins by following our Pinterest board.

Updated links for all of our past events and more information about Muffin Monday, can be found on our home page.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Moroccan-style Lentil Chickpea Stew

This dish is traditionally made with ground or minced lamb and is a favorite in Moroccan cuisine and in our house too. But, if I’m honest, I prefer my version substituting lentils for the lamb. The onions, lime and all the spices make this a bright and deliciously warming stew to serve over rice or couscous.

This week my Sunday Supper family is sharing veggie main dishes, making vegetables the star attraction of our supper table. This is the perfect time to share my adaption of a favorite recipe, this lentil and chickpea stew. Just take a look at that list of ingredients! There's so much flavor that you will not miss the meat, I can assure you. Do give it a try! If you are looking to add more veggie-centric meals to your family menu, make sure to scroll down to the check out the link list of our 30 delicious dishes.

This is adapted from a recipe on My Recipes.

1 cup or 210g green (preferably French Puy) lentils
2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra drizzle for serving
2 large onions, peeled (13 3/4 oz or 390g)
1 large carrot, peeled (5 oz or 140g by weight)
3/4 teaspoon ground cumin
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon cayenne or to taste (I added a whole teaspoon.)
2 cups vegetable stock from cubes or homemade if you are so inclined
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1 1/2 tablespoons lime zest
1/4 teaspoon salt or to taste (This is going to depend on the saltiness of your stock.)
1 (15 1/2-ounce can) chickpeas
Small bunch cilantro plus extra for garnish, if desired
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice

Note: I’ve given the weights of my onions and carrot to give you an idea of size. Don’t get too hung up on this. A little more carrot or a little less onion and it’s all going to be just fine.

Cook 1 cup or 210g green lentils in a small pot with ample water to cover, until tender. This only takes about 20 minutes so keep an eye on the pot and add more water if necessary. Drain and set aside.

Make up vegetable broth, set aside. Drain and rinse the can of chickpeas. Zest your lime and then juice it.

Cut your carrot up on the diagonal and slice your onions vertically into strips rather than rings. Measure out all your spices. Chop the cilantro.

Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat then add the olive oil to the pan. Add onion and carrot to pan; sauté for a few minutes.

Add cumin, cinnamon, coriander, and pepper; sauté 30 seconds, stirring constantly.

Add cooked lentils, tomato paste, grated lemon rind, 1/4 teaspoon salt and chickpeas, then pour in the vegetable stock.

Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer for about 10-15 minutes or until mixture thickens.

Remove from heat and give the pan a little drizzle of olive oil, then stir in cilantro and lime juice.

(If you aren’t serving right away, wait to reheat then add the cilantro and lime juice just before serving.)

Sprinkle on a little extra cilantro for color, if desired.

This dish is perfect served with couscous or rice.


Many thanks to our Sunday Supper hosts this week, D.B. from Crazy Foodie Stunts. I know this meant he had to work through the holiday weekend so let me just say, you rock, D.B.! Hope your Thanksgiving was fabulous!

Veggie Mains

Veggie Snacks and Sweets


Friday, November 27, 2015

Dark Chocolate Orange Crostata #FridayPieDay

A traditional combination, especially around the Christmas holidays, orange marmalade and dark chocolate melt together to create a rich dessert tart that is perfect for a dinner party or a special family feast. I recommend serving it sliced thinly with a big scoop of vanilla ice cream or unsweetened whipped cream. 

All these years as an expat, I’ve missed Thanksgiving at home with extended family, but especially in the early years, it was all good. We didn’t have aunts and uncles, grandparents and cousins around, but we had each other. Creating our own traditions together, celebrating as a small nuclear family, bonded us perhaps more tightly than we would have been in different circumstances. Indeed, moving to new countries without friends or even familiar faces, we had only each other to rely on for entertainment or comfort. At least until friends were made. Making a home out of each new house in each new place was how I made sure my girls felt safe but the truth is, that's also what kept me sane.

We’ve only lived in one foreign country where Thanksgiving was a school holiday for our girls and that’s just because in Singapore they attended the Singapore American School. We hardly knew what to do with ourselves! We were used to celebrating our own Thanksgiving on the Saturday after the actual holiday and suddenly Thursday was open. Well, for the girls anyway. It was still a normal work day for their father. Ah, well.

This year we’ve decided to do something completely different. Our girls are celebrating Thanksgiving with friends and family in the States, but as you read this, my husband and I are probably soaking up the sun and sea view in the Seychelles. It’s just a few hours’ flight from Dubai and since we can’t have a family Thanksgiving, we might as well make the best of it! Meanwhile, I leave you with this lovely crostata, which is just a fancy Italian way of saying tart.

This recipe is adapted from one on Real Simple.

For the dough:
2 1/3 cups or 290g flour, plus extra for rolling out dough
1/2 cup or 100g sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup or 170g unsalted butter
2 large egg yolks
Ice water – 4 tablespoons to start then maybe 2 more

For the filling:
3 1/2 oz or 100g dark chocolate
1 1/2 cups or 450g orange marmalade

In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, and 1/4 teaspoon salt.

Cut the cold butter into cubes and add them to the flour. Use a pastry blender to cut the butter into the flour until you have crumbles.

Add the egg yolks and 4 tablespoon of cold water. Mix it up lightly with a fork.

Add one or two more tablespoons of cold water, mixing again until the dough just comes together. (I did take photos of these steps for you but they were blurry. Perhaps due to excess flour on the camera. Poor Canon. Unfortunately my furry helper is useless at taking photos for me.)

Form the dough into a disk. Cover with cling film and refrigerate for at least 15 minutes.

Meanwhile preheat your oven to 375°F or 190°C and line a cookie sheet with baking parchment or a silicone liner.

Chop the chocolate into small pieces.

Roll 2/3 of the dough out into a circle of about 14 in or 36cm on the parchment paper or silicone mat.

Spoon the marmalade in the middle. Sprinkle chocolate over the top. There will be some chocolate crumbs and dust left on the cutting board. Set it aside to save these for sprinkling over the finished crostata.

Roll the remaining dough out to the same thickness as the bottom crust and slice it into strips.

Place them in a crisscross pattern over the marmalade/chocolate.

Carefully fold the sides up and over the crisscross and up to the marmalade, patting the folds down gently to seal.

Bake until lightly golden, about 40-45 minutes. Remove the crostata from the oven.

Use the blade of a knife to scrape up the crumbs of chocolate from the cutting board and sprinkle these over the warm crostata.

Allow the crostata to cool completely on a wire rack before attempting to move or cut it. You will see that it's still a bit jiggly until it's cold and the chocolate has set once more.

Once cool, cut in slices and serve. This goes really well with vanilla ice cream or unsweetened whipped cream.


This dark chocolate orange crostata is my contribution to this month's Friday Pie Day, the brilliant creation of Heather from All Roads Lead to the Kitchen. (Formerly girlichef.)

I am pleased to join her on the last Friday of each month for pie and crust recipes, techniques, tools of the trade, and other inspiration.

This month Heather has baked a cranberry apple crumb pie! Wouldn't that be perfect for Christmas too? Do go over and have a look.

For more information and recipes, please check out her #FridayPieDay page!


Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Fresh Orange Cranberry Sauce

Fresh cranberry sauce with a kick of citrus. This is no-cook sauce is easy to make and pairs well with your Thanksgiving or Christmas turkey dinner.

I must confess that in our family, we are fans of the jellied cranberry sauce and take a certain amount of pride in sliding it straight out of the can whole and slicing it up to serve just as is. None of this mashing it around to pretend it’s homemade in any way, shape or form. It’s completely different from this fresh orange cranberry sauce so I think there is a place for both in my life. Neither requires any cooking. Both are ready at a moment’s notice. I’m not going to pick a favorite but if you turn your nose up at the jellied stuff, give this a try.

I could have sworn I watched Paul Hollywood make his version of this on a Great British Bake Off Christmas master class but I’ll be danged it I can find it online to give you the link. If anyone out there has it, I'd be happy to hear from you.

UPDATE: I am much obliged to my friend, Nicky, with whom I watched that episode. She has just informed me that it was Mary Berry who made the fresh cranberry sauce, not Paul. Turns out it wasn't from the GBBO master class at all but Mary Berry's Absolute Favorite Christmas Favorites, which we watched that same day. Mystery solved!

For those who celebrate, may you enjoy a happy Thanksgiving tomorrow full of good food, family and bountiful blessings!

1 1/2 cups or 170g fresh clean cranberries
1/4 cup or 60ml vanilla wine syrup or rich (double sugar) simple syrup with a small splash each of sherry and vanilla
Pinch fine sea salt
1 orange

Peel and seed your orange, making sure you remove all the pith and the hard bits in the middle with a sharp knife.

Put everything in a food processor and chop till finely ground.


Need a little inspiration for the Thanksgiving feast still? Here are some of our Cajun family favorites.

Nanny's pecan pie

My grandmother's maque choux or spicy Cajun corn

My grandmother's green beans and new potatoes

Extra rich creamed potatoes

And for Friday when you have leftover turkey and gravy? Make my easy turkey potpie with store-bought puff pastry.


Thursday, November 19, 2015

Orange Pisco White Chocolate Bundt #BundtBakers

Pisco, the national drink of Peru, dates back more than 250 years and was created distilling the grapes grown in the area, reducing the need for imported alcohol from Spain. While purists says good Pisco is best savored neat, it is also the main ingredient of the national cocktail of Peru, the Pisco Sour, as well as other mixed drinks, like this hot chocolate recipe from Serious Eats, the inspiration for today’s Bundt.

If you’ve been reading along here for a while you know that I spent some time as a child in Peru. I shared some of my fondest memories in my ceviche post, speaking of closing my eyes while eating ceviche and being transported back to the beaches and the desert were I roamed pretty free.

But almost more effective for bring back evocative memories than taste is smell. When I close my eyes and sniff an open bottle of Pisco, I remember the parties where we children ran around under foot, dancing on our own or in groups, sneaking sips of their drinks when the parents weren’t looking, way too young to be drinking at all. Pisco makes powerful cocktails, with the potential to bring back whole sandy summers of music filled memories for me. Without even a sip.

After finding that hot chocolate recipe online, I couldn’t resist using Pisco in my hot chocolate inspired Bundt cake although I changed it up to use white chocolate. I am not a huge fan of white chocolate but I am pleased to report that persistence has paid off. I have finally created a recipe with white chocolate that I love! Perhaps it’s the Pisco and Cointreau that make the difference.

For the cake batter:
2 1/2 cups or 315g flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups or 250g sugar
1 orange
6 oz or 170g good quality white chocolate chips. (I use Ghirardelli. See note below.)
2 tablespoons Cointreau
2 tablespoons Pisco
1 cup or 227g butter, softened
3 eggs
1 cup or 240ml buttermilk

For the glaze:
3 oz or 85g good quality white chocolate chips (A generous 1/2 cup - See note below.)
2 tablespoons Cointreau
2 tablespoons Pisco
Pinch salt

For decoration: candied orange peel from this recipe or use store-bought

See what I mean?
Note: Six oz or 170g is just shy of 1 1/4 cup of chips but keep in mind that the Ghirardelli white chocolate chips are almost flat so more fit in a cup than would the typical triangular chips. As with most baking ingredients, using a scale is most accurate.)

Preheat oven to 350°F or 180°C and prepare your 10-cup Bundt pan by greasing and flouring it or spraying it with non-stick baking spray.

Sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

In a large bowl, grate the zest of your orange into the sugar. Mix well. Juice the orange.

In small saucepan, melt 6 ounces white chocolate with 1/4 cup or 60ml orange juice, Cointreau and Pisco over low heat. Stir until smooth, and allow to cool to room temperature while you get on with making the batter.

Slowly, slowly! 

Add in the butter to the sugar. Cream until light and fluffy.

Add the eggs one at a time, beating well with each addition.

Beat in the half the flour mixture, then half the buttermilk. And repeat.

Pour in the cooled, melted white chocolate mixture and beat until just combined.

Spoon the batter into your prepared Bundt pan, making sure to get batter into all the little nooks and crannies. Smooth out the top.

Bake for 50-55 minutes in the preheated oven, until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Or if you are an instant thermometer using type, until the internal temperature reaches 210°F or 99°C. If the top is darkening too fast, before the cake is cooked through, cover it with foil.

Leave the Bundt in the pan for abut 10 minutes before removing it to a wire rack to cool completely.

To make the glaze
When your cake is completely cooled, put all the glaze ingredients into a small pan and heat over a very low flame until the chocolate is melted. Use a small whisk to get the lumps out, if you have one.

Remove from the heat and drizzle over the cooled Bundt. If the glaze gets too thick to drizzle as it cools, add a few drops of water and warm again, very gently, stirring constantly.

Chop your candied orange peel up into small pieces and dot them around the cake for decoration.


Many thanks to Tara from Noshing with the Nolands for hosting this very creative Hot Chocolate inspired Bundt Baker theme! What a great bunch of Bundts we have for you this month!

#BundtBakers is a group of Bundt loving bakers who get together once a month to bake Bundts with a common ingredient or theme. Follow our Pinterest board right here. Links are also updated each month on this home page.

We take turns hosting each month and choosing the theme/ingredient.