Something New- Pomelo

DSC01722You know how once in a while someone recommends a film to you. It’s got that actor you sort of like in it and was directed by that woman who did that other film you liked and was nominated for a bunch of Oscars but never won? You know the film, the one that’s pretty good, maybe not up to all the hype but you should like it, one of your friends saw it and said it was OK.  You know that film that you record to your TiVo or Sky+ because you really intend to watch it one day but then it comes to it and actually you’re not sure you feel like a film tonight and you’d rather catch Match of The Day then you must get caught up on Fringe before some fecker at work spoils you on it and ooh, look, The Mummy is on ITV3 again tonight! And so on and so forth until that film has been sitting there recorded and unwatched for about six months and you delete it so you have enough space to record that new Attenborough thing in HD. Yea, That Film. Well the Pomelo is the culinary equivalent of That Film for me. Everyone keeps going on about it and telling me to try one and I will but Tesco don’t do them online and I don’t want to trek down to that really rude bastard of a green grocer on the off chance he has one and I’d rather have a sandwich pear for now anyway. But I will try one, one day.

Well after a prompt from a friendly tweeter type buddy and a chance slow walk past the noisy cockney fruit and veg man next to Marks, I finally came across one of these glorious beasts in a situation where purchase really was irresistible.

DSC01721Pomelo: Citrus grandis, Citrus maxima or a ‘shaddock’. Large citrus fruit native to South/South east Asia. Sweet, edible flesh commonly a yellow to green colour, or occasionally a pinky red. Various spellings. Low calorie, very high vitamin C, moderate fibre and iron content.

There’s no ironicus in the latin here, the first thing you’ll notice about a pomelo is that it is huge! The largest citrus fruit going (kids in Assam use them for footballs), it looks like a mutant grapefruit. Mine was bigger than a baby’s head and came in at a reasonable £1.50 to purchase. The first thing I liked about the pomelo is that due to it being so massive, I got to use my posh meat cleaver that I never get to use to cut it in half! Fun. The next thing I liked was the glorious, fresh scent once I sliced through the unusually thick pith into the flesh. It really does have a delightful aroma, clean and crisp and probably what various perfumes and loo cleaners are failing to emulate when they state a ‘citrus’ variety. Really lovely.

My Mr and I opted to sample the pomelo for Sunday breakfast starter, simply sliced open and attacked with a teaspoon. The boy’s verdict was that it tasted like ‘a very mild lemon’ and he was not entirely wrong, though it is a much sweeter, more delicate flesh than you tend to get from it’s smaller relations. The flesh itself is almost crunchy and very satisfying to feast upon, with none of the wink inducing acidity you almost always find with lemons or yellow grapefruit. I immediately thought it’s juice would make a great salad dressing base or a sweet balance to add to a spicy stir fry. However, the one I sampled was not that juicy. The one main ‘against’ point of the pomelo, is that is is kind of a bitch to eat. The pith that segments this mammoth citrus is very thick and fibrous and digging out the little bits of fruit was something of a challenge. Thankfully as it’s so sweet it doesn’t sting like billio when you finally spring forth a lump of flesh a little too roughly and end up squirting yourself in the eye with the juice.

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I’m sold on pomelo I think. It will get boring as a simple eating fruit, as most things will, but I really want to try and incorporate it into my general cooking. First off I’m thinking of some kind of pomelo-chilli seafood marinade for BBQ season if this infernal winter ever ends and I reckon the zest will make a really lovely difference to baking. The chinese like it with pork, which I can imagine working and Wikipedia tells us that it is often eaten simply peeled and dressed with a little salt. If this works, am I the only one thinking Pomelo Margaritas?????

So if you find yourself in front of a pomelo, I suggest you eat it! Do pay for it first. It’s rather lovely and a great way to benefit from all the january friendly qualities of fresh citrus without having to pull a funny face when you eat it. You’ll find it in most Asian markets and probably in your bigger supermarkets. Or from the nice cockney fruit and veg man outside Marks in Colchester.

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Something New- Decaff??????

decaff headerI’ve not had much to say of late, for reasons which will soon become apparent. So let us start by flashing back to a couple of weeks ago on a Friday lunchtime rush round the aisles of Asda. Not something I usually enjoy because yes, I am a supermarket snob and my local Asda is a hell hole of drooling backward checkout staff and customers who think it’s ok to go out in public in dirty pyjamas. Vile. But by chance I was there and I needed goods for the weekend, and my eye stumbled across a bag of organic ground coffee for less than three quid. Hmmm. I do like to go organic when possible and by ‘possible’ I tend to actually mean ‘affordable’, and this was both. And it had a parrot on the pack. In the basket it went along with a loaf of bread and a kitkat chunky and I was bolting for the exit again.

Skip some irrelevant action in the office and overnight to get to the next morning, Saturday morning, which means some good fresh coffee and two hours of cooking shows on the beeb.

Ohmygodwhathaveidonewhathaveidone.

Yes people, in my hurry to get back into the company of people who dress in daytime clothes, I had not noticed that little pale blue tag on the packet of coffee. It was decaffeinated. Horrors.  Now, I’m not any kind of caffeine junkie and I drink coffee because I like it, I freely admit I enjoy a lower caff brand once in a while but de-caff for the most part I find massively lacking in flavour with an oddly flat, biscuity finish that reminds me of the smell of fake tan. Don’t like it. Don’t drink it. Adsa’s finest or special or whatever it calls it Nicaraguan Organic went into a box and into the fridge for extended ignoring.

Then a week or so later there was a drunken moron in need of aid on an icy slope and an even more moronic food blogger who decided to try and help them. There followed a loud bang, a louder yell of resultant rage, a trip to the hospital and a moderate concussion. Concussion is no laughing matter let me tell you and apart from the ringing ears, fuggy head and inability to lay down and sleep you also have to remember a long list of stuff you aren’t allowed for fear it may worsen your condition. Many of these are things you don’t want to do with a skull splitting headache anyway, like dancing or driving or going to work. No thank you. But then hot baths, ibuprofen, booze and, would you believe it, caffeine suddenly all became exotic contraband with the potential to create furious craving. I could have screamed but it would have hurt my already wobbly brain. I would have cried but oh, hang on, what about that decaff organic gumph I heartily shunned last week? This was clearly a desperate time requiring an equally desperate measure.

I wont go overboard, I don’t love it or prefer it to my usual morning black stuff, but in a pinch it was more than sufficient, maybe surprisingly bearable  I did use a little more of it in my humble coffee machine than I would with a trusted favourite, and the result was a pleasingly thick, dark and fragrant brew. I wonder sometimes if the smell is as much of the experience as the actual imbibing. It didn’t have the odd, chemically aftermath I usually experience with decaffeinated coffees which could be due to the organic aspect or the country of origin or a million other things, I don’t know. There was also a smooth, subtle sweetness to it which I think may not have been as evident in a less strong armed batch than the several pots I brewed up.

In summary-  Asda Nicaraguan Organic Decaffeinated Ground Coffee is not bad at all. It is tasty enough and kept me happily hydrated through several days sat on the sofa waiting for the cartoon birdies to stop flying around my head whilst I watched endless episodes of Breaking Bad and Mad Men (love you Don). It was another new thing that didn’t hurt me, but I’m not sure that I’ll be turning this mistake purchase into a regular one, further blows to the bonce notwithstanding.

It also has a pretty purple packet with a parrot on it.

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Something New- Bacardi Oakheart

Bacardi Oakheart. Rich and spicy and well worth a try.

Bacardi Oakheart. Rich and spicy and well worth a try.

So, two thousand odd years ago Christ was born and as a roundabout result, a bottle of Bacardi Oakheart found its way into my kitchen this weekend. I have to admit, despite how much the screechy 80’s Essex stereotype upsets me, I’ve put away a fair few normal Bacardi n Cokes over the years. Though oddly enough, never at home. By home I actually mean England’s green and pleasant land as opposed to the ground floor one bed flat I type these words from. It’s always been a summer drink to me, for summers better than those I tend to enjoy at home. Maybe it just goes so well with a pool and a Gozitan sunset that any other setting would now spoil it somehow, who knows, but domestic consumption just never happens.

I first noticed dark rum getting trendy a few years ago when I worked in an off licence to bolster my bank balance. I seemed to be constantly filling up the little slot on the shelf between the Smirnoff and the Lamb’s Navy which should be inhabited by Sailor Jerry’s Rum. Never heard of it, but boy did we shift it in that cruddy little shop. And not just to scratchy looking bearded old men with grumbly voices and red noses as I had expected. Well presented, about town, trendy types under the age of 30 seemed to be the standard purchaser. The mind boggled. Briefly. Then I sort of forgot about it, because I don’t really do trendy and even if I did, I certainly don’t drink dark rum.

Flash forward to the more recent past and a bottle was gifted from a friend of the Mr, and there it was on Friday night. Hmm. Will I try some? Yes, I should. But there wasn’t any coke. Now, the man is working his way to becoming a seasoned whiskey drinker so I wasn’t entirely surprised that he would be taking it straight but that kind of thing tends to hurt my face. I don’t like (most) straight spirits, I think it’s the abrasive whiff of fumes scouring your nostrils just before you take a sip that is the worst part. But there is a school of thought that when you’re mixing, you’re not really tasting the core product. So does that mean you’re just sweetening it up to get smashed without any kind of actual enjoyment? Maybe, maybe not, does it really matter oh bloody fine then I’ll try it but I want some ice.

Bacardi tell us that this product is: a bold, spiced rum that gets its robust flavor by fermenting in charred oak barrels. Rich and oaky on the nose, with hints of smoke and dried fruit, this exceptional spiced rum has a robust flavor that stands up to any challenge.
But why listen to them, when they can’t even spell flavour properly? The initial boozy whiff was there to start with, but there was also a sweet aroma that I might call buttery rather than smokey, and it helped me get to the first swallow. It was actually rather nice, rich and almost thick tasting, I don’t know about oaky or any of that but there was definitely a non-descript essence of warm, spicy things. It was almost like a mixture of Glenlivet and Jack Daniels Honey- both of which I have sampled straight up and enjoyed much less than this. I drank the whole glass, which was probably about a standard double, over the course of the next hour or so. I didn’t have another one, but I did savour every mouthful and once the ice started to melt it a little I didn’t make that little winky-ouch-booze-burn face after each swallow.

DSC01710The real result came on Saturday though, when I refused to fight my inner girliness any further and decided I wanted a mixer. I’m just not made to take it straight. I want tonic with my gin, OJ with my vodka, chocolate in my martini!!!! I resolved to dilute, but with what? Coke is the obvious choice, but I think Mr would have confiscated the bottle if I went down that road, and I object to your standard Coca Pespi kind of cola drinks anyway due to the masses of sugar and evil sweeteners in them, and their general global dominance of tooth decay. When I couldn’t find any old curiosity cola, I thought again. Sweet, sticky, slightly buttery and rich with spice. If it was a dessert, it would be a sticky toffee pudding. What can a sticky toffee pudding handle? Ginger. Perfect. Coupled up at home with a big splash of M&S Firey Ginger Beer, this was a winner indeed and something I plan to enjoy more often. Probably.

Very Green Soup

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Well the festive season officially ended yesterday and I don’t know about you, but I could use some dietary fibre. I would like to blame my sluggish bulginess on no less than three Christmas dinners, one boxing day buffet, one boxing night cheeseboard and a new years day roast but in truth, I think it’s the little extras that do the damage at this time of year. You know, that left over turkey begging to go into a triple decker sandwich with some emmental and plenty of cranberry sauce. Or that little lump of roast beef, those sausage rolls you can’t just throw out, the Quality Street that need eating. My Mr is massively fond of food that ‘needs eating’, and in the days after Christmas and new year that covers almost everything. Not to mention the couple of bottles of wine that we didn’t get to, the third of a bottle of gin which isn’t going to go off but the tonic will be flat by the weekend and the baileys which we shouldn’t really keep unfinished and the sloe gin and the brandy and the rest of it. Urgh. If I could just stop after the big dinner and go back to normal eating until the next big dinner of significance, I’m sure I wouldn’t hit the usual early January wall of self loathing and spotty skin.

So, detox? Botox? No. Soup.

January is a marvellous time for soup. It uses up all those vegetables (which are somehow less appealing to finish off than that wheel of stilton), is simple to make and cheap at this time of year to boot, which we could all do with. It’s a good way to get at least three, if not more, of your five a day into one piping hot meal to warm your abused and probably backed up innards with lots of fibre, hydration and nutrition. A lot of people don’t like soup. It’s boring, it doesn’t taste of anything. Well if that’s you, I say that you are boring and you don’t cook it properly. I think quantities and over cooking are where people tend to go wrong. Would you serve a dinner with half a potato and one small onion per person? No, so why if you mix it with water and mush it down would that suddenly become an acceptable portion? You need plenty of veg, and you don’t need to cook the hell out of it either. It is a rule for most kind of vegetables (apart from carrots and tomatoes) that the more you cook them, the lower the nutrient content becomes. Of course you do need to cook them, but boiling them for hours on end is counter productive to taste and benefit. Just because anyone who can stir a pot can make soup, it doesn’t mean you get to be lazy about it.

So go on, make some soup. If you’re not happy conjuring your own mix then get ye to google and find a copy of The Soup Bible or one of the sequels for hundreds of ideas. Otherwise get a pan, get some veg and have a go using the instructions below. This recipe gives a comically toxic looking bright green dish but obviously this will alter depending on ingredients. But before we begin, some fun science which might talk you into the idea if you’re not sold yet.

Garlic: Antibacterial, antiviral AND antifungal; anti-oxidant (that’s cancer fighting talk to you and I);  high in allicin which promotes relaxation of blood vessels and prevents the formation of clots; high in potassium (healthy heart), calcium, manganese, iron, zinc and selenium, dietary copper and vitamin C; tastes yummy; deters vampires.

leeksLeeks: Antioxidant; immune system supporting and anti inflammatory; high vitamin A, K, C and B6;  thought to support strong and healthy connective tissue throughout the body.

Courgettes: High vitamin A, folates, potassium, moderate levels of most B-complex vitamins.

Thyme: Antioxidant; high in volatile essential oils with antiseptic properties; high folate, manganese, potassium; Vitamins A, C, E, K and B-complex; provides vitamin B-6 or pyridoxin which invades your brain and stops you from stressing out.

Popeye1Spinach: High vitamin A, C, K, E, B1, B2 folate (for baby growing) potassium and manganese (though vitamin c content reduces with cooking); antioxidant; high lipoic acid thought to regulate blood sugar levels; helps you build big muscles like Popeye.

 

Very Green Soup

Quantities are per person

Sunflower oil to fry
2 large cloves of garlic
1 medium leek
1 small white potato
Half a courgette
One block of frozen spinach or two cups fresh leaf
450ml vegetable or chicken stock
White pepper and sea salt to taste
Fresh thyme
3 mushrooms

I like to blend this soup so don’t worry about chopping too prettily, but don’t chop to huge rough chunks or it wont cook evenly.
Heat some sunflower oil in a pan with the garlic (crushed or chopped) and chopped potato (peel if you must but the skins have extra nutrition, fibre and give a more satisfying texture). As the potato starts to soften, add your white pepper ( I like about 1/4 tsp per portion) and leeks  which should be finely chopped and cook for a further 3 to 5 minutes, stirring regularly. Then in with the chopped courgette, stir, then add the stock. Cover and leave on a gentle simmer for about 20 minutes or until the potato is well cooked and soft. If using frozen spinach, add now and simmer for another 5 minutes. If using fresh spinach, shred it finely and add to your soup, stir then take it off the heat.
In a separate pan heat a little more oil and fry off your mushrooms in either chunks or slices, however you prefer.
Allow the soup to cool slightly then blend in a food processor or with a hand mixer to desired consistency. Taste and season as liked and add some fresh thyme. Heat through and serve with the mushroom pieces added on top and some crusty bread if you’re carb loading!

Green soup, a saintly January dinner.

Green soup, a saintly January dinner.

Variations: You could swap pretty much any of the constituent ingredients for onions, cabbage, peas, carrots, any kind of squash, celery, you get the idea! I’d keep the potato in there though it gives such a lovely, velvety texture on the finished soup. Parsley or basil could swap with the thyme if you’re not a fan. The hardcore carnivore could add some crispy bacon bits with or instead of the mushroom pieces. If you don’t have a blender or just can’t be bothered, keep all your chopping fine and even and serve as a broth, though you may find it needs a little more seasoning. 

Are you going to eat……….Healthily??????

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Yes it’s January and tradition, well wishers, do-gooders and your general Media Services are encouraging change. Not everyone loves change, particularly the kind of change that is an effort and quite possibly involves removing something from your life that you enjoy. Time now then for vomitous juice cleanses, binge exercise injuries and the suicidal tendencies of trying to exist without any carbohydrates. Nonsense. NONSENSE!!!!!!!

Now I’m not one of those people who thinks that healthy eating can just piss off because I like cake and that’s never going to change. I do like cake, and that is unlikely to ever change, but extremity in eating, like so many other areas of life, is not sustainable for your average joe and it’s also massively depressing. It is literally depressing you know- many kinds of food including the wrongly labelled baddie of complex carbs actually cause happy chemicals to release in the brain. Yes, this does explain how you can develop an apparent addiction to bread or chocolate, but it’s also how you make it through the afternoon in the office without turning into a hell bitch after lunch and how you have the drive and energy to drag yourself to the gym or for that run round the field. That’s not to say I’m an advocate of living exclusively on items you might find on the Domino’s menu either. Absolutely not- because constant deep fried, over processed monster foods with added MSG and cheese on top is just another form of extremity, and it’s bad for you.

And I know this first hand.

Almost ten years ago I go to sit with a (horrid, patronising and frankly rude) Doctor who told me that I was going to be in serious trouble if I didn’t lose some weight. This wasn’t news- I dragged my fat arse out of bed every day, could barely move more than 100m without breaking a sweat and had a small fit of stress induced tears every time I had to dress for a special occasion because clothes hated me. Blood tests had confirmed that my innards were under a massive strain and I was developing type two diabetes along with a seriously unpleasant skin condition. I was mortified, and embarrassed. I knew I was too big. I’d seen bigger but that was no excuse. The excuse, was that I didn’t know why. I would hold my hands up to the odd Chinese takeaway binge and a ton of JD and Cokes every third friday night when I wasn’t at work but I had half fat milk, half fat cheese, wholegrain bread and plenty of fish. How had this happened to me? There are a bunch of emotionally related answers here but that’s not for these pages. What is for these pages, is that I simply didn’t know what to do. All praise to the NHS- I was sent from that horrid little doctor man to a marvellous little eastern european nutritionist. I took a food diary with me and from there we went.

I probably owe a good part of my life and a better part of my happiness to that stern little woman. We didn’t cry or hug and she didn’t have any ground breaking insights into my emotional state or eating issues, it was not the stuff of an Oscar winner starring Sandra Bullock. It was simple, educated observation. Having studied science by choice for much of my life at that point, she spoke a language I understood and set me five simple rules.

One meal, one carb.
Nothing that is more than 5% sugar
Avoid anything that is more than 4% fat
Absolutely no white, processed carbs (so white rice, white bread, white pasta)
Have one day a week off and eat what the hell you like.

I lost three stone in a year doing this and, I’m sorry to say, very little exercise. I didn’t lose my joy of eating or cooking, I had a takeaway when I felt like it, and I started to feel and look better quite quickly. Simple education. Because I didn’t know that even low fat sausages have some kind of cereal in them usually, so if you put them with potatoes- double carbs. I didn’t know that a weight watchers yoghurt in those days had a significantly higher sugar content than a standard bio yoghurt. I didn’t know that I was pretty seriously protein deficient due to an ongoing, misguided cholesterol fear. I didn’t know. I do now.

I’m not going to pimp myself as any kind of lifestyle coach, I can’t tell you how to lose weight forever or eat perfectly or be a clean and exemplary person. I don’t bloody know, so you should seek full advice from someone who does- trust me it could change your life. However this person does not exist in a three page bikini diet supplement or on a painfully intense work out DVD. Nor do they exist in some ridiculous fat club that charges you a fiver a week to stand on some scales and suffer their judgement. Ever notice how many people say oh I have to go ‘back’ on weight watchers or I’m going to try Slimming World ‘again’? I really don’t believe that they work long term.  I do believe that you need balance, and you need enjoyment, and any regime that does not incorporate these two things will not work for more than a few months. And I know I’m not perfect, I slip from the golden five rules up there sometimes- at this time of year it’s a lot of the time. I’m certainly not catwalk material and I could do with dropping another stone and doing more sit ups but I’ve kicked out the diabetic tendency and have a healthy, functional pancreas again. I’m now fit enough to actually enjoy rather than dread exercise. My blood pressure is that of a sleeping teenager and I like to wear frocks these days without crying before I leave the house. I have learned to eat smarter, and I am better for it. And I still have cake. As I said before, if you need to lose a lot of weight you should see your GP or a nutritionist, but below are some simple ways I have found to make healthier choices without destroying the simple joy of a good dinner.

Pizza is my favourite food I think. I love it, and I probably have it about once a week. Try skipping the Domino’s order though and buying a plain base from your supermarket, add tomato puree, thinly sliced chestnut mushrooms, courgette and maybe some ham and mozzarella. Less fat, less salt and less money. Hurrah.

Chips n Dips– again a favourite, especially when I have company. Add some cucumber or carrot sticks to your crisp selection for extra fibre and to slow down the blood sugar rush. Dip in salsa or tzaziki rather than heavy, creamier or cheese based dips.

Frozen Yoghurt– it really can be as good as icecream and is much lower in fat and calories.

Sweeteners– don’t use them. No, really, they are full of potentially health threatening chemicals and do nothing to ease your sugar cravings or tendencies towards sugar heavy foods. Just cut out the fizzy drinks and gradually drop how many sugars you have in your tea/coffee to start. You wont miss it after a short time, I promise.

Cereals– I avoid breakfast cereals where possible to be honest but if you must, go for no added sugar varieties and avoid anything with added dried fruit as the sugar content is huge- add your own fresh fruit if you like it.

Cheese– mmmm, cheese 🙂 Mozzarella is generally lower in fat than other cheese types so whenever melting, opt for this rather than standard full fat hard cheeses. It also goes a little further when melted so you don’t need as much. Experiment too with stronger flavoured cheeses like stilton or goats or sheeps cheeses which you tend to eat less of due to the more intense hit on the palate.

Salad– a salad can be a fantastic and filling meal. A salad does not have to be a bowl of iceberg lettuce and vinegar. Take some time at the green grocers and really look, try something new and brightly coloured, you will find something you like. Tomatoes, a million kinds of mushrooms, beetroots, bell peppers. It doesn’t all have to be fresh, throw in some pickles or marinated artichokes, maybe some walnuts or pine nuts for crunch. If it makes you more likely to eat all your vegetables put in a little bit of naughty too- a slice of garlic bread or some bacon bits or a decadent dressing- just don’t drown it.

Oranges are not the only fruit you know. I don’t really like a lot of fruit, it’s so hard to get it tasty and naturally ripe in this country a lot of the year. Go with seasonal produce where you can and again, try something new where you can. Clementines,  japanese pears, mango, papaya, quince, grapefruit, lychees. Don’t be scared of canned fruit either, just make sure it is in juice rather than syrup.

Bread can be the enemy to some, it is to me because I love it and eat too much of it but if you go wholegrain it’s not as evil to the diet as it’s whiter relations. It’s also filling and satisfying and a big ham salad sandwich for lunch is less likely to have you reaching for a naughty afternoon snack than a miserable plate of withered salad leaves covered in no fat fake Caesar dressing is.

I could go on, but I suspect I have gone on enough. To make a long story short (too late) yes, I am going to eat healthily as often as possible. I’m also still going to have cake once in a while. And so should you.

Something New- Banana Muffins & Toffee Cream Sauce

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Happy New Year!

It’s easy to be depressed by New Years Day, and New Year’s Eve for that matter as it’s basically all over.  The presents, the feasting, the midnight mass, the excitable kiddies, the stockings, the chocolate, the time off work, done! Over. Get back to it. Time for diets and budgets and giving up naughty things. But not until tomorrow. Today, we can squeeze out the last lazy drops of time for ourselves, and it should be glorious.

I’ve had a lovely new year, but I wont bore you with the details. Cut to dinner with friends and my being on dessert duty as a thank you to my fine Hogmonay hosts. Convenience of ingredients lead me to rustle up my all time favourite bake- banana bread muffins- but this didn’t seem special/decadent enough to finish of New Year’s Dinner. A scratch-made custard was possible though the soft, slightly sticky banana cakes cry out for either the sharp cut of some dark booze or a thick slash of caramel. What with an 8 year old sharing the table, my initial leaning towards a rum based accompaniment was short lived indeed. Now, what about that sticky toffee pudding sauce the older male sibling bashed out a couple of weeks ago? That will do nicely. And it would have done, had I picked up the dark muscovado sugar in the shops yesterday morning instead of the light. Oops. The result was still pleasing though, nowhere near as dark and rich as planned but still oozingly lovely and very well suited to the muffins.

So here it is, a lovely winter’s night dessert for all the family, mistakes included and my first ‘new thing’ of the year. It worked out ok.

Boomboom Banana Muffins & Toffee Cream Sauce
Serves 4-6

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For The Muffins

4oz unsalted butter
6oz caster sugar
2 whole eggs
2 large, ripe bananas
1tsp bicarbonate of soda
1tbspn milk
8oz plain flour
1tsp baking powder
3 tbspn cocoa solids or dark chocolate chips *optional*

For the Toffee Cream Sauce
300ml extra thick double cream
120g light muscovado sugar
90g lightly salted butter

Through some sort of genius chemistry, these muffins are only OK on the day of baking, but left overnight in an air tight tin they develop a delicious stickiness so make these the day before if at all all possible.

Set your oven to 175C and grease a muffin pan- you should get about 12 large cupcake sized cakes or 8 big muffins from this mix. In a large bowl (or a blender if you have better things to do with your time) cream together the butter and caster sugar until combined, light and fluffy. Then beat in your eggs one at a time. Mash your bananas thoroughly and add to the mix. I’ll add here that the older and squashier the bananas the better, they give so much more flavour to the mix when they are ripe, or even over ripe, and fresh harder fruit really doesn’t give the same result.

Next heat your milk in a small pan then just as it boils, add the bicarbonate of soda. It will all puff up and fizz and sizzle for a moment. Pour this into the main mix and beat in thoroughly. Now sift in the flour and baking powder then add the cocoa solids/ choc chips if using (Hotel Chocolat ‘Macho’ drinking chocolate is perfect) and fold into the wet mix. Spoon into your tin and cook for 20-25 minutes until risen and  an inserted skewer comes out clean. Cool then store in an airtight tin.

The sauce should be made right before serving, it does not cool or keep well! Simply put your sugar, cream and butter (cut into little cubes) into a pan and heat gently until the butter and sugar have melted and combined into the cream. Continue to heat until barely boiling then serve immediately over your muffins.