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This weekend I decided to tackle the growing collection of frost in the freezer. At the back of the freezer, long forgotten about, I found two ripe bananas which I had been saving for banana bread. Since it was a lovely fall weekend, I thought some baking was in order.

This recipe is based on Quick Banana Bread from The Joy of Cooking with a few modifications. When my brother and I were growing up, the Joy was one of our favourite cookbooks. With instructions on how to skin a squirrel and recipes that make 200 cookies, the Joy is sure to be a hit with young chefs. We would pore over it for hours before deciding to make some obscure cookies, candies or a cake. Mom never questioned our choices and was always supportive of our efforts, even when we really did make 200 German Honey cookies.

This recipe requires less cooking time than many others I have seen and is very easy. Enjoy it while it cooks and fills the house with a wonderful aroma, hot out of the oven with butter melting on it or the next day for breakfast (if there’s any left!)


Banana Bread

Preparation time: 15 mins + 45-60 mins cooking time.
Makes one loaf.

1 3/4 cups sifted all-purpose flour
2 1/4 teaspoons double-acting baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

1/3 cup butter or margarine
2/3 cup brown sugar
Grated rind of one lemon

2 beaten eggs
1 to 1 1/4 cups of ripe banana pulp

1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 350°F/175°C.

1. In a medium mixing bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder and salt.

2. Blend the butter, sugar and lemon rind in a large mixing bowl until creamy.

3. Beat the eggs and banana pulp into the butter and sugar mixture.

4. Add the sifted ingredients to the sugar mixture in 3 parts, beating until smooth after each addition.

5. Fold in the walnuts.

6. Pour the batter into a greased loaf pan.

Bake for 45 – 60 mins until a toothpick comes out clean.  Cool slightly before sneaking the first hot slice.

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I forgot about this recipe for years but it has become a new favourite. I’m not a big fan of raw mushrooms, which might be the reason I haven’t made this salad in ages, but believe it or not, it doesn’t taste like mushrooms! It is still great if you don’t have time to let it sit for 2 to 3 hours, but it definitely becomes better with a bit of time for the mushrooms to fully absorb the dressing. Fresh and zingy, I think this salad is perfect for summer BBQs or enjoying on the patio.

Fast + impressive + different + doesn’t taste like mushrooms! Have with an omelette or quiche for lunch or supper.


Mushroom Salad

Make 2-3 hours before serving.

1/2 lb mushrooms (any edible variety)
Juice of 1 lemon
1 clove garlic, minced
Fresh ground pepper
1/2 – 3/4 C olive oil (a lot!)
Salt
Fresh herbs, especially parsley, basil, marjoram, thyme, sage

1. Wash mushrooms gently. Trim stalks and cut in thin slices up and down, through stalk and cap. Put them in a medium to large non-metallic bowl.

2. Squeeze a lemon over them. Stir in minced garlic. Grind lots of pepper on them. Mix. Pour olive oil over
all.

3. Let sit 2-3 hours, stirring occasionally if you’re home.

4. Just before serving, add a little more olive oil if mushrooms are dry. Add salt to taste (up to 1 tsp). Add chopped herbs and mix again.

Mushroom Salad

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Apologies.. it has been a long time since I’ve written a new post. I’ve been busy finishing up my PhD and unsurprisingly didn’t have any spare writing time. I’ve now pretty much finished it and have started work full-time. I’m planning to return to my blogging and enjoy cooking again. Earlier this week I had a craving for blueberry muffins so on Friday I bought some blueberries on my way to work and today I made some yummy blueberry muffins. I used the site NutritionData.com to calculate the nutritional information which I must admit was much worse than I had thought. I did use reduced-fat butter so the numbers should probably be a bit less than those quoted for my muffins. Feel free to use margarine or other reduced fat spread.


Blueberry Muffins

Makes 12 muffins.

Blueberry Muffins

1/2 cup butter
1 1/4 cups brown sugar
2 eggs
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup milk
2 1/2 cups fresh blueberries

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Grease and flour muffin pans or use paper liners.

2. In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time and mix in.

3. Mix flour, baking powder and salt. Add flour mixture, alternating with milk. Mash 1/2 cup berries and stir into batter. Fold in remaining berries.

4. Fill muffin cups. Bake for 20 minutes. Remove from oven and wait 5 minutes to remove from pans.

Per Muffin: 222 kcals, 9g fat(5g saturated), 4g protein, 36g carbs, 718g sugar, 0.6g salt.

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I discovered this recipe from Masterchef: the Best of British Cooking a few weeks ago and it has quickly become a new favourite. Although it says it serves four people I always have leftovers which are great reheated in the oven or microwave the next day. I typically use more garlic than is called for here and substitute black pepper for white. I haven’t managed to take a picture of it yet since I’ve always made it for guests and didn’t want them to wait while I faffed with photography.


Dauphinoise Potatoes

Serves 4.

3 cloves garlic
1 tsbp sea salt flakes
300 ml (1/2 pint) double cream
300 ml (1/2 pint) milk
freshly ground white pepper
1 kg (2 1/2 lbs) potatoes, peeled and finely sliced
butter, for greasing
50g (2 oz) grated Parmesan

1. Crush the garlic into a paste with the salt. In a large pan, combine the garlic paste, cream, milk and white pepper.

2. Add the sliced potatoes, turning into the cream mixture to ensure all the slices are evenly coated. Bring to the boil, then simmer for 15 minutes until the potatoes are tender and the mixture has thickened.

3. Butter a ovenproof dish (9×13 or bigger). Gently pour the potatoes into the dish and level the top. Sprinkle over the grated Parmesan and place in a preheated oven at 150°C (300°F) for about 1 hour, until the top is nicely golden.

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This is a recipe from my friend Liv for the easiest, yummiest chocolate pudding. I might even call it her signature dish. It’s hot and goey and chocolatey. What more could a girl ask for?… but some ice cream on the side. Easy enough to whip up while your main course is cooking and impressive enough for friends, family or guests.


Hot Chocolate Pudding

1/4 cup butter
1/2 cup milk
1 egg
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup self-raising flour (see note below)
1 tbsp cocoa

Topping:

½ cup sugar
1 tbsp cocoa
1 ¾ cups boiling water

1. Preheat the oven the 180ºC.

2. Melt the butter. Add the milk and egg and stir well.

3. Add the dry ingredients and mix well!

4. For the topping mix the sugar and cocoa and sprinkle evenly over the pudding mixture.

5. Carefully pour the boiling water over the pudding.

Pop in the oven and bake for 35-40 mins.

Serve with ice cream.


Self-raising (or self-rising ) flour is white or wholewheat flour with leavening agents already added. If you don’t have self-raising flour add the following to the dry ingredients above:

  • 1 to 1½ teaspoon baking powder
  • a pinch to ½ teaspoon salt

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Gratineed Gnocchi with Spinach and RicottaI made this yummy recipe from Gourmet magazine the other night with a pack of store-bought gnocchi in my cupboard. I had been struggling to come up with what to do with them and was drawn to this recipe because it wasn’t gorgonzola or tomato based as most gnocchi recipes seem to be.

I followed the recipe on the Gourmet site except for two substitutions. I used a few tablespoons of single cream topped up with milk because I didn’t have any double cream on hand and because it was healthier. This did make it a bit more watery though and I had to cook the cream sauce for a bit longer. I also didn’t have any mozzarella, strangely I find it hard to get in the UK because all the stores seem to have is fresh mozzarella, so I substituted some grated cheddar.

The recipe says it serves four, but I had half of it the first night with a green salad and the rest for supper the next night.

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This year I was determined to have a Canadian Thanksgiving dinner. Usually I get all wrapped up in Freshers’ week activities and forget that Canadian Thanksgiving is coming up. Everyone always asks me why us Canadians have Thanksgiving on a different day than the Americans. So here goes..

In Canada we celebrate on the second Monday in October and unlike the Americans who remember the safe arrival of the Pilgrims, we give thanks for a successful harvest. More detailed explanations can be found on Wikipedia and here.

Since Thanksgiving is a harvest festival, I wanted to make use of as many locally sourced products as I could. I bought a locally grown free-range organic chicken from a new deli and shop in Cambridge called Origin8 which specializes in local, organic meat, game and produce. From the market in the city centre I got local onions, celery, potatoes, carrots, apples, parsnips and a little pumpkin for a homemade pie, and from the garden outside I picked fresh sage. The wild rice was imported (by me!) and was my token representative of the Canadian harvest.

I stuffed a 1.6kg chicken (the biggest they had) and had lots of stuffing left over that I baked in aluminum foil alongside the chicken. I roasted potatoes, carrots and parsnips drizzled in olive oil and minced garlic. Unfortunately fresh cranberries are only available at Christmas in the UK, so I had to settle for cranberry sauce from a jar, but all in all, it was a fabulous dinner enjoyed with good friends.


Wild Rice Stuffing

Preparation time: 20 mins.
Makes about 6 cups.

2 1/2 cups dried multi-grain bread, cubed
1 medium onion, chopped
1 tbsp fresh sage, chopped
3 stalks celery, chopped
2 cups wild rice, cooked
1/4 lb butter, melted
1/2 cup water or stock
2 small apples, chopped
1/2 cup raisins
1/8 cup walnuts

1. In a large mixing bowl, stir together the bread, onion, sage, celery and wild rice.

2. Combine the melted butter with water or stock and gently mix into the bread mixture.

3. Add the apples, raisins and walnuts and toss.

4. Carefully stuff the chicken or turkey taking care not to pack too tightly – otherwise it will get sticky. If you don’t want to stuff the bird, or have extra stuffing that doesn’t fit, bake it in a covered casserole dish or aluminum foil for about an hour.

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