Sunday, February 22, 2009

Great Expectations

On Friday, goaded along by the presence of the blog and the general need for some therapeutic food-making, I turned into a cooking monster. It was like Frankenstein – I started out with good intentions, namely to make a few nibbles for friends coming over later in the day, but these quickly passed as I got caught up in a frenzy of whisking, boiling, bubbling...And with the same ambivalent results. (OK, maybe Frankenstein was a murderer, that’s pretty clear cut. The ambivalence refers solely to my cooking).

By the time my friends turned up to watch the Oscar-nominee films, they were confronted by an unholy mess – me up to my elbows in Blackberry cake batter, pulping some squash for muffins, basting a lamb and roasting some vegetables, all at the same time. I’d have kept on going, but there’s only so much space in the oven, plus the look of worry on Kate’s face suggested that I had gone far enough already.
Tearing myself away from the kitchen, we put on the first film of the day – The Changeling. It was good – very different from what I was expecting and a little bit off the mark towards the end, but well worth watching. A bit like the blackberry cake that came out of the oven halfway through the movie.

I’d taken a sponge cake recipe and given it a twist – by adding blackberries and vanilla. I’m still not sure if I’d say it was a success. The cake tasted delicious, especially once it was iced, but it was a little too heavy – more like a pudding than a cake. It’ll be fantastic heated and served with a dollop of cream, but as a teatime break, it wasn’t quite what I wanted.

Next up was Vicky, Cristy, Barcelona with the utterly delectable Javier Bardem (he of No Country for Old Men fame). As with all Woody Allen films, there’s a lot of talk about emotions, complicated relationships and meaningful moments in which people’s lives are changed. You never quite know how it’s going to turn out, and with this film, I thought the combination worked.

Now the squash muffins probably aren’t going to change your life but I definitely didn’t know how they were going to turn out and the combination worked. Think carrot cake but a little sweeter and moister.

Kate cheekily commented it would be a good way to get children to eat vegetables – we could start a production line in sneaky vegetable treats – courgette cake (Nigella has an excellent recipe for this), swede cupcakes, turnip muffins. Am not sure about the last one, but it might be worth a try. Anyone who does, give me feedback and let me know.

But for now, I’ll leave you with the recipe for the squash muffins – I’m going to work on that blackberry cake and when it finally graces these pages it will be light, fluffy and fit for high tea with the queen.

Squash muffins
300g soft brown sugar
½ medium butternut squash, skin removed and grated
4 large eggs
300g plain flour
100g chopped walnuts
150ml sunflower oil
2 teaspoons baking powder

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius.
Mix the sugar, squash, eggs and oil together.
Sift the flour and baking powder onto the liquid mixture, add the chopped walnuts and fold until just mixed (do not overmix).
Place the muffin mixture in muffin cases and put into oven for 20 minutes. Makes 12.

You can ice these with the Philadelphia/icing sugar combo used for carrot cake, I think they taste great without though.


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