Sunday, 8 January 2012

Healthy Banana and Oat Breakfast Muffins

The neighbours from the apartment below us are coming for brunch today - all boys in their 30s. For desert I repeated the cheesecake of last week but for myself I wanted something healthier as a dessert - it is only the second week of January after all and too early to be breaking new year's resolutions.

I had been considering Susan Jane White's banana and peanut butter recipe but using a full jar of peanut butter put me off, however once I had made the muffins below I was thinking how good they would be with some peanut butter added, although maybe not a whole jar!

The muffins are made with wholemeal flour, which has more fibre and nutrients than white flour and agave nectar is used instead of sugar. For those who are lactose intolerant the milk can be replaced by soya milk. One of the great things about this recipe is that you don't even need a weighing scales. Ikea stocks cheap measuring cup sets in their homeware section. Bananas with black spots are perfect for this recipe.

1. preheat oven to 170°c

2. Mix well together the following ingredients in a large bowl; 1 1/2 cups of wholemeal flour, 1 cup of rolled oats, 1/2 cup agave nectar, 2 teaspoons of baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 3/3 cup milk, 1/3 cup sunflower oil, 1 teaspoon vanilla essence, 1 cup of mashed ripe banana and 2 tablespoons of coconut.

3. Pour mixture into prepared muffins cases or well greased muffin tin and make in oven for approx 20 mins. This recipe makes approx eight large muffins or 12 small ones.

These muffins were spot on and go down well with a large mug a Barry's tea!

Sunday, 1 January 2012

Tried & Tested: ricotta, apple and cinnamon cheesecake from Eric Lanlard

My sister bought me the Eric Lanlard Home Bake cookbook for Christmas, living in France and not having a TV I had never heard of him, although in the UK he has his own tv shows.

The pictures in the book are lovely and also I like the way he gives you both the prep and cooking time - which helped me to avoid starting a cake I would not finish on time. Although the downside is that that not every recipe is accompanied by a photo so you are not always sure what the final result should resemble.

For a new year's party where I had been asked to bring a dessert I decided to give my new cook book a test run. I chose the cheesecake recipe because the cinnamon gave it a seasonal touch. The instructions were relatively easy to follow if you are regular cook although I am not sure a complete novice would understand what is meant by " base-lining" the baking tin.

The main problem I had, even if living in France, was finding calvados - not stocked in the supermarket so I replaced it with rum. I also used local varieties of apples to those listed in the recipe as they are not available in France. Luckily I was in Scotland when my sister gave me the book and was able to pick up some digestive biscuits for the base, but I guess you could replace with sable biscuits if in France and maybe to add a festive twist substitute half of the digestive biscuits in the base with homemade gingernut biscuits (recipe also in the book).

If like me you like a nice deep biscuit base I would consider doubling the quantity of biscuits and butter required for the based or at least increasing by 50%.

The quantities in the recipe below are unchanged from the book.

You will need:

For the base: 200G digestive biscuits, 75g melted butter.
For the filling: 2 cox's pippins apples, 25g unsalted butter, 1tbsp calvados, 900g ricotta, 150g caster sugar, 50g plain flour, 6 beaten eggs, 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon, 2 tsp vanilla extract
For the topping: 1 marges dessert apple, 25g soft light brown sugar, 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
Utensils: 22cm springform cake tin which has been well greased with butter and the bottom lined with baking paper
Oven: reheat to 180°C

To make

1. The base: Either blitz the biscuits in a food processor or put in large freezer bag and use rolling pin to reduce to crumbs then mix in the melted butter and press mixture evenly into the baking tin and bake in the preheated oven for 10 minutes, then take out and let cool and reduce oven to 170°C
2. The filling: While the base is cooling; peel, core and cube the apples. Melt the butter in a pan and saute the apples for several minutes, then add the calvados and set alight to flambe the apples. Allow to cool. In the meantime, put the ricotta in a large bowl and stir to achieve a smooth consistency, stir in the caster sugar and flour and the eggs mixture a little at time making sure that the eggs are well mixed in before introducing more. The add the cinnamon and vanilla and the cooked apple mixture and mix well. Pour mixture into prepared cake tin.
3. The topping: appel and core the dessert apple and cut into thin slices and arrange delicately on top of the mixture before sprinkling over the sugar and cinnamon.
4. Bake in the middle of the oven for about 75 mins - you will know it is done when a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean. The leave to cool slightly on wire rack before serving.
5. To serve: "au natural" or with a big dollop of creme fraiche.