Thursday, May 23, 2013

Crumpets for #RandomRecipeChallenge

The whole point of the Random Recipe Challenge set each month by dashing Dom of +belleau kitchen is to get us out of our comfort zone and make us try something new. This month the theme is bread so I opened the EatYourBooks website and searched my own cookbooks as specified.  My random number landed on English Bread and Yeast Cookery, a book I have had for a while and have enjoyed reading, but had yet to cook or bake from.  It is by Elizabeth David, the grande dame of British cookbook authors.

What there is to know about food preparation that she hasn’t written about, must not be worth knowing.  Each recipe is thoroughly researched and documented and delivered with current (at the time of publication) personal observations.  Mrs. David shares nine recipes for crumpets, those little griddle yeast breads, the oldest dating back to 1769, and her treatise on what a crumpet should and should not be.  She is quite firm and I get the feeling that she was quite a character.  My random recipe number this month brought me to the one called Crumpets 1973.  Thank God.

                                                  Random Recipes #28 - May

3 2/3 cups or 455g flour
1 packet dried yeast (3/4o oz or 21g) I used Fleischmann’s Rapid Rise.
2 cups or 470ml milk, diluted with 1/4 cup or 60ml water
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon sugar
2 tablespoons oil (I used canola.) plus extra for greasing the griddle and metal rings
For the second mixing: 1/2 teaspoon baking soda and 1/2 cup or 120ml warm water

Mrs. David says to warm the flour in a crockery bowl in a warm oven so I popped mine in a glass bowl into the microwave.  I didn’t really expect anything that dry to get warm, but it did.  Since it’s hotter than the hinges of hell already here in Dubai, that step probably wasn’t necessary but I was curious to see if it would work.

Measure your milk, water, oil and sugar into a microwaveable vessel and then warm slowly to blood heat.  I took that to mean 98.6°F or 37°C.

Close enough.
Pour about 1/4 cup of 60ml of your warm milk mixture into a small bowl with the yeast and whisk gently.

Meanwhile, add the salt to your warmed flour and mix well.

Stir in the yeast and then add the warm milk mixture.  Stir vigorously with a wooden spoon until it is smooth and elastic.  Here Mrs. David quotes from an earlier crumpet recipe and says to “attack it with ‘vivacious turbulence.’”  I suggest you do the same.

Look how foamy the yeast mixture got in just a couple of minutes! 

Cover the bowl and allow to rise for about an hour to an hour and a half at room temperature.

After an hour.
Beat it down with a wooden spoon.

Dissolve the baking soda in the warm water and add it to the batter, again stirring vigorously.  Let this rest, or as Mrs. David says, let the batter recover, for another 30 minutes.

Here where it gets tricky.  Prepare your griddle and rings by brushing them liberally with oil.  According to the instructions, my rings were supposed to be about 4 inches or 10cm across.  Mine were considerably smaller.

Also, as I filled them the first time rather full, I realized that the characteristic holes in the crumpet couldn’t form because the batter was too deep.   Also, perhaps my batter was too thick.

Too full? Or too thick?  Either way, no holes! 
Mrs. David warned that this might happen and suggested adding some extra warm water to thin the batter just a little bit.  I added another 1/4 cup or 60ml of water and only filled the rings halfway on the second attempt.  I was delighted to start seeing holes forming as they cooked.

Yay!  Holes starting to emerge!  
So:  I suggest that you heat your griddle over a low to medium flame and then only fill the rings halfway with batter to start.  If the holes are still not forming, add some more warm water to the batter.

Cook the batter until the holes have formed and the top is looking mostly cooked.  Use an oven mitt to pick up the ring and run a knife around the crumpet to loosen it, if necessary, and remove the ring.  Flip the crumpet so the holey side can brown.

Remove from griddle and, if you’d like, keep the finished ones warm in the oven until they are all done and you are ready to eat.

Continue brushing the rings with grease and filling them and cooking the crumpets until all your batter is gone.  Or until you get sick and tired of turning out crumpets and decide to stack a couple of the first hole-less batch with cheese and saucisson and make your helper a birthday cake.   Decorate with piped cream cheese.  Sing the birthday song and blow the candle out for him.  After all he has no lips.

This recipe makes a bunch of crumpets, at least a couple or three dozen, especially with small rings.

Smear them with a pat of butter and a drizzle of honey to fill the little holes.


More birthday boy photos: 

Monday, May 20, 2013

Double Mango Muffins #MuffinMonday

I am back home again from my two weeks’ holiday tour just in time for Muffin Monday and I couldn’t be more pleased about this week’s ingredient:  Mango!   When I was little and we lived in Trinidad, my favorite way of eating mangoes was with hot chili peppers and salt and a shot of ketchup, when the mangoes were still green.  We called it mango chow.   (I know, I know, I had strange tastebuds for a child.  But my older sister loved it too, so it wasn’t just me!)  When we moved back to the States a few years and one more country later, green mangoes were impossible to find and we were lucky if there were even ripe ones in the shops.  As a seasonal imported item, mangoes were very expensive back in the early 1970s, so they were a rare treat, but my mother would buy skinny cans of mango nectar to put in my lunch on special occasions, like a class field trip.   There was only one supermarket in Houston where mango nectar was available, so I knew that she had gone out of her way to buy that drink, which made it all the more special.

Now mangoes are available year-round, around the world, if you are willing to pay the price, and I usually have mango nectar in juice boxes in the freezer for whenever someone has a hankering for a mango popsicle.  Just cut the top of the box off and push the frozen nectar up to eat.  So refreshing and delicious!  And my cupboard almost always has a bag or two of dried mango, which is great as a sweet snack.  Even my helper loves the chewy slices.

2 cups or 250g all purpose flour
3/4 cup or 170g sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup or 180ml milk
1/2 cup or 120ml canola oil
2 large eggs
1 (about 9 oz or 260g) just ripe mango (about 3/4 cup or 140g chopped, without seed and peel)
1 3/4 oz or 50g dried mango

Preheat oven to 350°F or 180°C and prepare a 12-cup muffin pan by greasing it or lining it with paper muffin cups.

If you have a preferred method of peeling a mango, by all means, have at it.  If not, may I recommend my method?  Balance your mango on the narrow side and slice as close to the large seed as you can with a sharp knife, cutting one side off.   Turn and repeat for the other side.

Using the sharp tip of your knife, cut slices into the mango flesh, stopping short of cutting through the peel.

Scoop the slices out with a spoon.

Now run your knife around the piece with the seed still in the middle, removing the remaining circle of peel.

Use your knife to slice off the rest of the flesh, getting as close to the seed as you can.  (Set aside the seed for chewing on later, when you’ve popped the muffins in the oven.  This is the baker’s privilege.)  The resulting slices are perfect for salads.

For our muffins today, though, chop the mango slices into small pieces.

As for the dried mango, use a sharp knife to chop the pieces into little chunks, about the size of raisins.  Divide the pieces into two piles of about two-thirds and one-third.  Set the smaller pile aside to use for garnishing the batter before baking.

Combine your flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar in a large mixing bowl.

In another smaller bowl, whisk together your milk, egg and oil.

Pour your egg/milk mixture into your dry ingredients and stir until just mixed.

Fold in the fresh mango and the larger pile of dried, chopped mango.

Divide the muffin batter between the muffin cups.

Top each cup with a few of the reserved dried mango pieces for decoration.

Bake in your preheated oven for about 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool for a few minutes.  Remove the muffins and cool completely on a wire rack.


This basic muffin recipe was originally published in the Houston Chronicle and you can read about it by following this link.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Tilapia with Mushrooms, Artichokes, White Wine, Lemon and a Completely Unreasonable Amount of Cream

Calling all heathens.  You know who you are.   We are about to have a biblical lesson.  Not a Bible lesson exactly but I want to talk about fish.  And listening to your mother, because she is probably right.

Who remembers when we didn’t know what tilapia was?  Never heard of it and then, seemingly, it was ubiquitous.  On every fishy crushed ice spread in every grocery store.  And bags and bags of frozen filets in the freezer section as well.  When tilapia first came to my attention, my mother and I were discussing it and she told me that tilapia was most likely the fish that the apostles were catching in Sea of Galilee.  How does she know these things?  She goes to church, people.  And apparently pays attention during the sermon.  After just a little research, I discovered she was so right!  In fact, in many regions, they call tilapia St. Peter’s fish.  I think that is kind of cool.

This dish is one of my summer favorites because my sister, Marta, always makes it when we are home for the long school break.  Upon finding lovely fresh tilapia filets in my local Carrefour supermarket, I wrote and asked her for the recipe.  Her instructions included the method and the ingredients but no amounts so I will try to quantify it for you.  But I imagine if you put a little more of this, or a little less of that, this will still be just as delicious.   I am pretty sure I put way more mushrooms than she would but they looked lovely and fresh that day.

1lb 10oz or 750g button mushrooms
6 filets of tilapia
Sea salt
Black pepper
3/4 cup or 170g butter
Drizzle of olive oil
1/2 cup or 120ml lemon juice
2 cans or jars of artichoke hearts (not marinated) - drained weight about 5 3/4 oz or 165g each
1 cup or 240ml dry white wine
2 cups or 480ml heavy cream
Optional:  flat egg noodles to serve this over.

Rinse the tilapia to make sure all the scales are gone.  I also tidy up the margins with a sharp knife because I am like that about fish.  You don’t have to.   Give the filets a good sprinkling of sea salt and a couple of good grinds of fresh black pepper.

Clean and slice your mushrooms and squeeze your lemons, if you are using fresh juice, which I highly recommend.

Drain your artichokes.  I had jars of the tiny ones so I didn’t cut them but you can half or quarter larger ones if you’d like.

Melt your butter in a large saucepan, preferably non-stick and add a drizzle of olive oil to keep it from burning.

Gently cook the fish in the butter, for a few minutes on each side.

No one said this was a diet dish. 

Remove the filets to a plate when just cooked through and cover them.

Tip your mushrooms and artichokes into the saucepan and sauté until the mushrooms have given up most of their moisture, stirring occasionally.  I put the lid on and turned the fire down because I wasn’t in any hurry but this shouldn’t take more than about 5-7 minutes.

Add in the lemon juice, white wine and whipping cream.  Give it a good stir and lower the flame to a simmer.  Cook until it thickens slightly, stirring occasionally.

(If you are serving this over egg noodles, this would be a good time to cook them according to package instructions.  If they are ready a little before the fish, drain them and put them back in the pot with a good glug of olive oil to keep them from sticking together.)

Slide the fish back into the sauce, making sure to add back all the juices that have accumulated on the plate as well, and carefully redistribute the filets around the pan.

Heat gently until the fish is warmed through and then serve.

I was serving this for a dinner guest so I put the noodles in a dish, added the tilapia and ladled the sauce over the whole thing.  It occurred to me afterwards that a light sprinkling of chopped parsley would have looked pretty but never mind.  The dish tasted delicious.  Kind of a stroganoff of tilapia, if that makes any sense to you.

Give each person a healthy serving of noodles, topped with mushrooms and artichokes and one filet.


I’m on a touring holiday right now with my mom so if I don’t answer comments right away, please know that I am still delighted when you leave them and will respond as soon as I have internet access again.