Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Feeding time at the zoo – messy messy messy!

It seems as though there's a cloud of mess following me wherever I go at the moment.  Just this weekend, if it wasn’t the magically multiplying beans from our new beanbag: Bertha, it was the baking and if it wasn’t the baking then, well, Fraser's weaning put the rest to shame!  

The bean bag was originally purchased as additional comfy seating.  For some reason we decided it would take up less space than a regular chair… ERROR!  

In fact not only is it much larger than originally anticipated but we actually don’t have enough floor space so it’s taken up residence on one of the original and much in-demand seats leaving us with less seating than we started with…

Unfortunately while filling her, 90% of the "beans" missed, flooding the floor.  The millions of small white Styrofoam balls quickly dispersed, ending up statically attaching themselves to us, the floor, the walls, the TV… you get the picture!  It was like something out of a low budget horror film…

Add to that an incredibly messy baking session...
making my sister-in-law some Mexican wedding cookies for her birthday (who knew flour’s so explosive?) and a nephew who is currently in the process of some serious Fraser-led weaning  (must remember not to encourage raspberry blowing at the dinner table).

We’ve discovered that not only does Fraser’s breakfast of choice form a concrete, gluey-substance stronger than any previously discovered... But also, when flicked from an unguarded spoon, it gathers serious pace, can cross incredible distances and no one (I repeat, NO ONE) wants to be in the firing line… Poor Bro’s blank-canvas magnolia walls don’t stand a chance...

No Fraser you can’t eat the camera!
What I needed was a no mess, faster than a speeding bullet, recipe for Pecan and Maple muffins... Enter stage left a recipe from the Hummingbird bakery book

DELISH!  They're not too sweet (which is always the danger when using maple syrup) with lots of crunch from the pecans. 

Fingers crossed that with a batch of these in the fridge, at least the kitchen will have a breif respite from the constant layer of flour and icing sugar coating every surface... but I pity whoever ends up climbing near me and my chalk bag this evening!

Line a 12-hole muffin tin with paper cases.

Preheat the oven to 170°C.

Place the flour, sugar, salt and raising agents in a bowl and mix thoroughly.

Add the buttermilk, egg and vanilla and mix until thoroughly incororated.

Pour in the melted butter and mix in.

Stir in half the maple syrup and the pecans. 

Spoon into the cases until approximately 2/3 full.  Drizzle with the remaining syrup and place a pecan half on top.

Bake for approximately 20-30 minutes until golden brown and springy to the touch.

Cool for a few moments in the tin before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

350g plain flour
160g caster sugar
¾ tsp salt
1 ½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
375ml buttermilk
1 egg
½ tsp vanilla extract
70g unsalted butter, melted
240g pecan nuts, chopped (reserving 12 to decorate)
200ml maple syrup

Thursday, 7 June 2012

Pork-tastic Jubilee weekend

Congratulations Queeny... the double bank holiday was an inspired idea!  Who couldn't love you when you decree a four day weekend? 

Somehow I managed to infiltrate Rachel's family mini-break down in Barnstaple for a long weekend of surfing.  Luckily over the years I've become a dab hand at the "who me?  I'm just an additional daughter you'd forgotten you had" impersonation!

Friday night was a horrific slog down to Devon behind every slow moving camper van, caravan, farm vehicle and unicycle in the Northern hemisphere (ok so maybe we didn't see all that many unicycles) but once we arrived there was four days of sun (on occasion), surf (daily), and copious amounts of food (in a constant supply).

Bank holiday Monday we spent the whole day at the beach.  Rachel had already earmarked a pulled pork recipe she wanted us to try, the ingredients were bought, everything prepared and the car packed to go... now all we needed to figure out was how to programme the oven to turn itself off remotely while we were out.

Easier said than done!   

"Press button A with the clock picture on it."
"We don't have a clock picture..."
"OK well just press that button which looks like it's got an Egyptian hiroglyph of roadkill on it instead, we'll see if that works. Then press..."
"Now the oven won't turn on at all..."
"OK well turn it off at the wall.  Now: hold down Egyptian roadkill then press..."
"But everything's flashing and the time's disappeared..."
"OK then press the button which looks like a steaming turd, no not that one, the other one, while holding down..."

Eventually we cracked it.  We were at least reasonably sure that we weren't going to arrive home to cremated pork or a burnt down flat...

...Two surfs, a picnic on the beach, a couple of cheeky ciders in the Thatch's beer garden later and it was time to roll!

Preheat the oven to 240˚C.  Cut through the skin of the pork, approximately 1 cm deep with incisions approximately 1 cm apart.  Rub the meat all over (including in the scores in the skin) with salt, pepper, rosemary, thyme and nutmeg.  Pour over a couple of tablespoons of olive oil and continue to rub the flavours over the meat. 

Place the meat in a large roasting dish.  Pour 500ml of the cider around the pork.  Sprinkle the top of the meat with another pinch of salt.  Place in the hot oven for half an hour.

Once it has spent 30 minutes in the oven, turn the heat down to 130˚C and cook for a further half hour. 

Add the rest of the cider to the bottom of the roasting tray and cook for a further 6-7 hours.  Cover the whole roasting tray with a double layer of foil half way through the time.

Once the pork has finished cooking remove from oven.  Pull the crackling from the meat.  If it hasn't crisped up enough then finish it off (skin side down, layer of fat up) under a hot grill. 

Remove the pork from the roasting tray and put to one side. Skim off any fat from the juices left in the roasting tin. 

Blend the chillies, spring onions, spices, lime juice, ginger, garlic, honey and some olive oil.  Mix with the leftover cooking juices in the roasting tray.

Using two forks pull apart the meat and mix with the sauce in the roasting tray.  Tear over the coriander leaves.
Serve with the crackling, some spicy sweet potato chips and Levi Roots' Caribbean coleslaw...  PERFECT COMBO! 
Jamie Oliver's Jerk-Dressed Bristol Pork (serves 12):
Pork -
5kg pork shoulder, bone in and skin left on
1 large pinch dried thyme
1 large pinch dried rosemary
1/4 nutmeg, grated
1L cider
Jerk Salsa -
2 hot chillies
2 bunches of spring onions
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground cloves
2 tsp allspice
3 limes, juice only
2" piece of ginger, peeled
2 cloves garlic
2 tbsp honey
1 large bunch fresh coriander