Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Strawberry Rhubarb Muffins

Don't you just love spring. Sometimes it seems forever coming, I spend weeks on wee forages into the garden looking for buds, checking the herbs for signs of new life and then eventually feeling the delight at finding those first tender stems of rhubarb poking through their big cabbage-like leaves.

Most of those early signs of life are snapped up by my boys for the traditional Scottish treat of raw rhubarb dipped in a pot of sugar but I managed to spirit a few away to try these muffins.

Green Apple Cafe is a week old now and the fresh food and home baking seems to be going down well with those who have ventured way out into the countryside to find us. This week we've been trying out all sorts of recipes: oatmeal biscuits, rocky road cookies, cupcakes, tray bakes and scones to name just a few but just for today I need to make the most of this meagre bounty from the garden. I started with rhubarb scones, then made rhubarb crumble cupcakes (definitely coming back to those) but my favourite of the day is rhubarb strawberry muffins. On sale with coffee tomorrow.

Rhubarb Strawberry Muffins

150 g rhubarb
1 tbsp sugar
280g plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1/2 tsp salt
85g caster sugar
1 egg
125 ml whole milk
150 ml strawberry yogurt
1 tsp vanilla extract
2oz melted butter
5 strawberries

Chop the rhubarb and place the rhubarb and a tablespoon of sugar in a heavy bottomed saucepan. Add just enough water to cover. Cook gently for around 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and allow to cool while you prepare the muffin batter.
Prepare the muffin tins. Preheat oven to 180C.
In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, salt and sugar.
In a seperate bowl, whisk the egg, milk, yogurt, butter and vanilla together.
Pour the wet ingredients into the dry. Stir to combine. The batter will be slightly lumpy.
Add the prepared rhubarb and stir through the muffin batter.
Top each muffin with half a strawberry.
Spoon into muffin tins and bake for 18-20 minutes.

Thursday, 8 April 2010

Bring It on!

Yeah..... bring it on!!! After weeks of anxiety, I am getting really excited about the cafe@The Hub opening this week. We'll be open tuesdays, thursdays and fridays initially will extend the opening hours soon. The plan is to start out with a fresh and simple menu and build our repertoire slowly. But still, I am obsessively testing all sorts of soup and panini recipes this week just for fun. 

When the cafe opens, we'll be rotating sandwiches, testing out fillings and chatting to visitors to see what our customers would most like to see on the menu. Meantime, I am devouring cookbooks, blogs and cafe menus and taste testing any and all sandwich fillings I come across. Really it is the best excuse ever to spend all my time making cakes and going out for coffees - all in the name of research.

This sweet and sour relish is one of my favourite condiments. Its strength is beautiful with blue cheese, the richness cuts through the sharpness of goat cheese and its balsamic sweetness adds depth of flavour to beef or roast vegetable paninis.

Today's lunch will be roast beef sandwiches with caramelised onion relish. A little blue cheese adds depth, a slick of mustard adds bite and a handful of rocket adds a peppery crunch but I love it best served simply with rare beef.

Caramelised Onion Relish

4tbsp olive oil
4 large red onions, finely sliced into half moons
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp dark muscovado sugar
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Heat the olive oil in a heavy bottomed pan. Saute the onions gently for 30-40 minutes until soft and golden. Add the garlic for the last few minutes of cooking and gently stir through the gelatinous oniony mess. Add the balsamic vinegar and sugar and stir well through the onion mixture. Bubble gently for a minute or two to allow the sweet and sour flavours to meld then season to taste. Keep in the fridge and use within a week or bottle as you would chutney or jam (in sterilised jars) where it will keep in the pantry for months.