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Pear Ginger Streusel Muffins

I hate these dark gloomy days . . . the sky all leaden and filled with heavy clouds . . . the air damp and cold. It does nothing for my constitution! I find it kind of drags me down a bit . . . it also makes it very difficult to get good food pictures in natural light.

It would be different if the sky was filled with little white flakes instead of scattered plops and drops . . . that would actually be a bit exciting I think . . . and I know that is only because I am not a person who has to travel back and forth to work. If I did need to travel . . . I probably wouldn't be as enamoured with snow as I am!

Perhaps it's the Canuck in me . . . that finds myself longing at this time of year for that excitment of the first snow fall . . . I guess it's pretty hard to teach an old dog new tricks . . . even of the snowy kind.

I have to do my cooking early in the day these days . . . so that I can use the light from the back window for my picture taking. What do other people do? How do they manage. I see lots of lovely food pictures all over the place. There must be a way. Perhaps my camera is the wrong kind. I don't know.

I guess I'll just have to drown myself in one of these delicious muffins . . . buttermilk, brown sugar and grated pear makes them super moist . . . cinnamon, ginger and ground cardamom make them nice and spicy.

Altogether I guess you could call them incredibly, edibly moreishly scrumptious!
That works for me! hmmm . . . I might dig out my Dirty Dancing DVD and torture Todd watch it . . . a little bit of Patrick Swayze can't hurt either. Settled! Spicy Muffins and a Stud Muffin. The perfect afternoon sorted.

*Pear Ginger Streusel Muffins*
Makes 12 medium muffins
Printable Recipe

Moist, spicy and delicious. Perfect with a hot cup of herbal tea.

8.5 ounces plain flour, divided (2 cups)
7.5 ounces light muscovado sugar (1 cup packed)
4 ounces cold butter, diced (1/2 cup)
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cardamom
1 tsp ground ginger
pinch salt
165ml of milk or buttermilk (about 2/3 cup) (you may not need it all)
1 large free range egg beaten
1 tsp vanilla
2 conference pears, peeled and grated (Bosc, use pears that are more on the hard side)

Combine 6 ounces of the flour, along with the brown sugar in a bowl. Rub in the butter until the mixture resembles fine meal. Measure out 2 ounces (1/4 cup packed) and set aside.

Preheat the oven to 200*C/400*F/ gas mark 6. Line a 12 cup medium muffin tin with paper liners, or butter really well.

Add the remaining flour to the flour mixture in the bowl, along with the spices, baking powder, soda and salt. Mix well. Beat together half of the milk, egg and vanilla. Add to the butter mixture along with the grated pears, only adding as much of the remaining milk to give you a soft droppable batter, and mixing only to moisten. Spoon into the prepared muffin cups, dividing the mixture equally amongs them. Sprinkle some of the reserved crumb mixture over top of each.

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes until risen, lightly brown and a toothpick inserted into the centre of one comes out clean. Let cool in the pan for 5 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool.

Store any leftovers in an airtight container.

Over in The Cottage today, a comforting Potato Pie.
Marie Rayner
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Lemon Glazed Cinnamon Scrolls

There was a similar recipe to this printed in the January issue of Sainsbury's magazine, which is usually a very good magazine . . . in fact it is generally one of my favourites. In fact I generally pounce upon it as soon as it pushes it's way through my post box and I devour each page slowly as if at a feast . . . I just can't wait to see what Nigel Slater is up to each month. (This issue is spicey treat!)

The instructions on this recipe however . . . left a great deal to the imagination. (Not one of Nigel's I hasten to add! He would never let us down so . . . ) There was not even a baking temperature was included. If one didn't have a sound knowledge . . . as simple as they are . . . one might have been quite confused.

Marie to the rescue. I do have a sound knowledge of baking and lots of experience and have made many similar things to this, and often and so I sorted it out. I can only think that it must have been an oversight on the part of Sainsbury's as they are usually very good . . .but then again, nobody is perfect, mais oui! (Not even me! ☺)

These are perfect little flakey bites . . . stogged full of cinnamon sugar and glazed with butter and demerara sugar before baking. (The sugar is my own addition to give added crunch)

Baked until golden brown . . . and then glazed with a tangy lemon drizzle icing, these would be perfect a hot drink for elevenses . . . or for a special tea with the gals, or even just when you feel like indulging yourself just a tiny little bit.

After all the holidays are almost upon us and there is nothing like a tiny bit of self indulgence to bring a smile to one's face and a lift to one's weary feet!! Nom! Nom!

*Lemon Glazed Cinnamon Scrolls*
Makes 12
Printable Recipe

Perfect little puffed bites, stogged full of cinnamon and glazed with a tangy sweet lemon drizzle. Delicious!

1 package of all butter puff pastry
2 heaped tsp of ground cinnamon
4 TBS of demerara sugar (Turbinado)
2 TBS butter melted
more demerara sugar for sprinkling
For the glaze:
8 TBS of sifted icing sugar
the juice of half a lemon

Preheat the oven to 220*C/425*F/ gas mark 7. Line a large baking sheet with parchment. Set aside.

Unroll your puff pastry, leaving it on the liner paper. Combine the cinnamon and sugar. Sprinkle evenly over top of the pastry. Starting at one short end and using the liner paper to help you, roll up tightly as a jelly roll, up to the centre of the pastry. Flip around and then repeat from the other side, again meeting in the middle. Place in the refrigerator to chill for about 15 minutes. Remove from the refrigerator and cut into 12 equal slices. Place evenly spaced and leaving at least 3 inches between each, onto the baking sheet. Flatten slightly with the palm of your hand and brush each with some of the melted butter. Sprinkle with some of the demerara sugar

Bake for 12 to 15 minutes until crisp and golden brown, checking after 12 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely.

Whisk together the glaze ingredients until smooth, only adding enough lemon juice to give you a smooth drizzle. Drizzle decoratively over the cinnamon slices. Allow to set before serving. Store in an airtight container.

Cooking in The Cottage today . . . The French Wedge, a delicious salad with a tangy dressing, roquefort cheese, toasted nuts and creamy slices of avocado!
Marie Rayner
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Christmas Cookie Cutters and Creamy Sweet Potato Soup

Several weeks ago the people from Eddington's sent me a couple of things from their Christmas line to test out. You probably remember the snowflake moulds that I made little nutmeg cakes with. The other thing that they sent was this sweet and charming Birkmann VIP IV Angel Wings Cookie Cutter Set! Each cookie features a slot allowing you to perch them on the side of your mug. Charming and fun, they'lre just perfect for baking with during the Christmas holidays!!

Can you imagine hot mugs of cocoa with these little angel wings perched along side? I know! A-D-O-R-A-B-L-E!!! Could you get any cuter??? I think not!

They're not just for cookies though. They also come in incredibly useful for making toasty croutons for soup or even little puff pastry savouries to serve along with soup!

Are they not just the sweetest perched on this delicious mug of Creamy Sweet Potato Soup that I made for our lunch today??? I know! I am so in love with them!

This really is a delicious soup. You wouldn't need angel wings to convince you of that really, but they are cute. Creamy and rich . . .

Slightly sweet from the addition of chopped apple . . . a bit of spice from a cinnamon stick, some fresh ginger and . . . garlic . . .

As touch of heat from Chipolte Chili Paste, which you can find in the spice sections of most shops. Mine is from the people at Bart's. Don't add too much though! A little bit goes a very long way!

*Creamy Sweet Potato Soup*
Serves 4
Printable Recipe

Creamy and rich with a slight sweetness from the apple and a bit of a bite from the chipolte paste.

1 TBS olive oil
1/2 medium onion, peeled and chopped
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and minced
1 tsp finely grated fresh gingerroot (no need to peel)
2 eating apples, peeled, cored and chopped
1 stalk of celery, trimmed and chopped
2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped
1000ml of vegetable stock (4 cups)
500ml of water (2 cups)
1 cinnamon stick
1/2 tsp (or to taste) chipolte paste
Salt to taste if necessary

Heat the oil in a large saucepan. Add the onion, garlic and gingerroot. Cook, stirring occasionally over low heat, until softened. Add the apples, celery and sweet potatoes. Cook, stirring occasionally for 5 minutes. Add the stock, water and cinnamon stick. Bring to the boil. Reduce to a slow simmer. Cook until the vegetables are meltingly tender, about 30 minutes. Fish out the cinnamon stick and discard. Stir in the chipolte paste. Blitz until smooth with a stick blender, or alternately by pureeing carefully in a blender. Taste and adjust seasoning as necessary. Keep warm until ready to serve. Serve in heated bowls.

Birkmann VIP IV Wings Cookie Cutter Set, available at all good Kitchen stockists, Stainless steel and very easy to use. The set also comes along with a few tasty recipes.

Many thanks to Miriam from Shrewd PR and the people at Eddingtons for sending them to me! I just love them.

Over in The Cottage today, Dressed Road Kill Potatoes. Oh so scrummy!

Note: Anyone in the UK can purchase these adorable angel wing cutters at Trendy Kitchen for only £6.99 a full £2 off the regular price. Sounds like a great deal to me!
Marie Rayner
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Holiday Danish

I confess, it's the weekend and I've been playing with Mincemeat again . . . an activity that I freely indulge myself in at this particular time of year!

I was surfing the web yesterday and I came across a recipe here for Easy Blackberry Cheese Danish. It looked really delicious and I printed it out.

Then I got to thinking . . . and we all know what happens then.

As scrummy as the idea of blackberries sounded . . . mincemeat sounded even better to me, and even more seasonal!

I mean . . . this is the festive time of year is it not??? The store shelves are stocked with a bazillion jars of mincemeat, in all sorts of scrummy flavours, just waiting for us to partake, right???

And so I did what any mincemeat obsessed person would do . . . I created a Holiday Danish that would be perfect for any holiday breakfast or brunch.

Flakey croissant dough . . . rich and creamy cheese filling . . . spicy and sweet mincemeat . . . baked until golden brown and then drizzled with a creamy sweet icing drizzle.

Oh my . . . wicked but OH SO GOOD!!!
Nom! Nom! I rest my case.

*Holiday Danish*
Serves 8LinkPrintable Recipe

Another cheat recipe which used refrigerator croissant dough. Flakey and delicious with a filling of mincemeat and cream cheese!

1 (250g) tube of Jus-Rol Croissant dough (in North America use Pillsbury Crescent Roll dough)
250g of full fat cream cheese (8 ounces)
3.5 ounces caster sugar (1/2 cup)
3 TBS sifted plain flour
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 of a (411g) jar of prepared mincemeat (1 cup)
demerara sugar (turbinado)

To ice:
2 ounces sifted icing sugar (1/2 cup)
2 TBS heavy cream
1/8 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 190*C/375*F/ gas mark 5. Line a baking sheet with baking paper. Lightly butter. Set aside for now.

Whisk together the cheese, sugar, flour and vanilla in a small bowl. Set aside.

Pop open your croissant dough. Unroll, leaving the croissants in rectangles and separating the dough into 3 rectangles. Lay the rectangles out onto the prepared baking sheet as a larger rectangle, long sides touching each other. It should almost cover the baking sheet. Press all the perforations and edges together, sealing all holes. Cut 1/2 inch diagonal strips up each long side of the dough. Spoon the cream cheese filling down the centre of the dough, spreading it out to about 3 inches in width. Top with the minemeat, spreading it carefully over top. Fold the 1/2 inch wide strips over top of the filling, alternating from side to side so that you have somewhat of a braided pattern. Tuck in edges as best as you can. Sprinkle with some demerara sugar.

Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until the filling is set and the croissant dough is golden brown in colour. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely before removing from the baking sheet and proceeding.

Once cooled, remove to a serving platter. Whisk together the icing ingredients and drizzle over the danish. Cut into slices to serve.

Note - over here in the UK, you can get the Jus-Rol croissant dough at ASDA. Stock up! It comes in ever so handy!

Over in The Cottage today there's a bone warming Corn Chowder brewing.
Marie Rayner
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Pear and Ginger Trifle

The race is on now for me to develop a tasty trifle recipe for my Christmas lunch this year. Other years I have done different versions such as:

Turkish Delight Trifle Very good and very sweet.

Then there were the Christmas Pudding Trifles. Equally as delish, and not quite as sweet!!

(Image from BBC Good Food)

Of course you can't beat a good old fashioned Sherry Trifle.

Today I tested a Pear and Ginger Trifle. Pears being one of our favourite fruits and gingerbread being one of our favourite cakes!

It was very simple to make and tasted wonderful! Of course I didn't use the liqueur, just pear juice, and I did miss the jelly layer that I put in my usual trifle.

But all in all it was very, very good.

Best of all you can use store bought ginger cake and custard if you wanted to, which makes it a good store cupboard recipe . . . or even a good recipe to help use up any extra gingerbread you may have hanging around. (As if!!)

Anyways, it's a distinct contender I'd say!

*Pear and Ginger Trifle*
Serves 4 - 6
Printable Recipe

The first of my trifle tests to find a tasty trifle for this year's Christmas Festivities.

227g jamaican ginger cake (about the size of a small loaf cake), sliced into 1/2 inch slices and cut into cubes
212g tin of quartered pears in juice, drained (reserve the juice), about 2 cups of pear pieces
6 TBS of Eau De Vie (Pear Brandy. If you don't do alcohol, use the reserved pear juice)
300ml of cold thick custard (1 1/4 cups approx.)
150ml of fresh double cream (2/3 cup heavy cream)
1 tsp icing sugar

To Decorate: (any or all)
gold sugar balls
chopped candied ginger
toasted flaked almonds

Line four footed trifle dishes or one large trifle dish with approximately half of the ginger cake cubes. Sprinkle the cake with the Pear Brandy, or pear juice if using. Cover with the well drained pears. Top with the remaining cake cubes. Pour over the cold custard. Whip the cream along with the icing sugar until it forms soft peaks. Spoon over top of the custard. Sprinkle with whichever decorations you decide to use. Cover and chill until ready to serve.

Note: I do not recommend making this the day ahead. Make several hours before you want to serve.

Over in The Cottage today you will find a delicious appetizer for your Holiday meals, Smoked Salmon Tartar with Horseradish and Dill.
Marie Rayner
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Macaroni Peas

I got a new cookbook the other day. (shhhh . . . don't tell Todd. He thinks my library is having babies.) River Cottage Veg Every Day, by Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall. I'm a huge fan of HFW!

This is more than just a veggie book, filled with veggie recipes. Hugh’s approach to vegetables is from the green, sustainable and ethical food and fitness standpoint. I tend to agree with his attitude . . . we do tend to eat far too much meat and I've never heard of anyone being accused of eating far too much veg . . . in fact we are always being encouraged to eat more . . . five a day and all that!

I just love this book. I've toyed with the idea of becoming a vegetarian off and on through the years . . . it's only the thought of a good steak that makes me a bit wobbly with the idea . . . but I do try to incorporate more vegetarian dishes into our menues here at casa de rayner.

Vegetarian food used to be considered quite, quite boring, but not so any more, and this fantastic book makes that quite clear! It's beautifully illustrated and photographed and is chock full of delicious looking and sounding recipes . . . that are not out of the reach of the ordinary cook . . . nor are they boring in the least.

Take this beautiful Macaroni Peas recipe. Not only is it beautiful to look at, but I can tell you it's incredibly tasty as well! And . . . it was very quick and easy to make. Todd balked a tiny bit when he saw it . . . he is one of these men who always thought vegetarian food was quite yukky and well, we all know how much he loves pasta! Well, he ate a whole big bowl of it and went back for seconds. 'Nuff said.

If you really wanted to you could add some chopped ham or cooked bacon to the mix . . . it certainly would taste quite right here . . . but really, this is pretty darn good all on it's own.
(And this is coming from a gal who hated peas at one time!) Oh so scrummy, this is . . . oh so scrummy!

*Macaroni Peas*
Serves 4
(Adapted from River Cottage Veg Everyday)
Printable Recipe

This is fantastic. You can keep it veggie of course, but if you wanted a bit of meat some chopped boiled ham or crispy pancetta would not go amiss!

500g of frozen petit pois (4 cups)
500g of dry macaroni (2 cups)
50g of butter (scant 4 TBS)
1 garlic clove, peeled and minced
25g of Parmesan cheese, coarsely grated (1/2 cup) plus more for serving
fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
chopped fresh flat leaf parsley to serve

Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to the boil. Add the pasta and cook according to the package directions while you make the sauce.

Heat the butter in a small pan. Add the garlic and cook gently for a few minutes without colouring.

Put the peas in a separate pan, cover with water, bring to the boil and simmer until just tender. This should only take a couple of minutes. Drain, reserving the cooking liquid. Put half of the peas into a blender along with 6 TBS of the cooking water, and the melted butter and garlic. Add the cheese. Blitz until you have a smooth and loose puree, adding a bit more of the pea cooking water if needed. Combine with the whole peas and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Drain the pasta as soon as it is ready and toss immediately with the hot pea sauce. Serve topped with a hearty grinding of black pepper, some more grated Parmesan and a garnish of chopped flat leaf parsley.

This book gets a hearty 10 out of 10 from me!! I have flagged almost every recipe! Well done Hugh! (I am really liking the shorter hair on Hugh too!)

I've got a Lemon Basil Mayonnaise going over in The Cottage today!
Marie Rayner
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