Massive, road closing, motorhome shaking thunderstorms (two), unexploded WW2 bomb (one), aeroplane turbulence of the epic kind, exploding tyre (two), minor flooding to motorhome thanks to exploding tyre, minor flooding to motorhome thanks to chemical toilet (eww), endless waits at border controls (all Serbia), lunatic recovery vehicle drivers (Serbia), more toll posts than I ever need to see again, intimate knowledge of service station quality and service across the UK, France, Belgium, Netherlands, Germany, Austria, Slovenia, Croatia, Poland, Serbia, Macedonia, Greece, Bulgaria and Italy, constant vigilance of deer and screaming at A. for what turned out to be a cutout of a deer. An eventful holiday. What I haven’t mentioned of course are the beautiful mountain ranges; some verdant, some arid, the grapevines stretching as far as the eye can see, storks perching in the fields in Poland, fish leaping out of the sea in Greece, empty beaches, breathtaking sunsets, homebuilding, colours so vibrant they make your eyes ache, stray dogs that make your heart ache and of course food…the food…beetroot soup as the final course of a wedding feast at 3.30 a.m. in Poland, slow cooked goat with roasted lemony potatoes in a mountain village in Greece, scrambled eggs and fried tomatoes cooked at my stove whilst waiting in the queue at Serbian border control (I’m not down on Serbia, honest!), freshly made casoncelli alla bresciana (a type of pasta stuffed with breadcrumbs, parmesan, garlic, parsley, nutmeg and broth), picked up at Desenzano by Lake Garda and eaten tossed in butter in the motorhome washed down with a rosé from Milea Winery in Argalasti, seeing the day’s octopus catch drying outside Stefano’s and then having it for dinner, barbecued souvlaki and lamb with friends and family, layered creamy moussaka, unlimited fava and feta....aahhh feta...
Feta, Spinach and Sundried Tomato Muffins
- 30g butter
- 1 small red onion, chopped
- 300g plain flour
- 2½ tsps baking powder
- 1 tsp cayenne pepper
- 2 tsps ground cumin
- 110g feta, crumbled
- 90g Cheddar cheese, grated
- 250 ml whole milk
- 2 eggs
- 50g sundried tomatoes
- 130g baby spinach leaves, roughly chopped
Preheat the oven to 180°/Fan 160°/350°F/Gas 4.
Melt the butter in a small saucepan and fry the onion until soft. Leave to one side.
Sieve the flour and baking powder into a large bowl then add the cayenne pepper, cumin and cheddar cheese and mix until combined.
In a separate bowl mix the milk and egg together then pour onto the flour mixture, stir until just combined, do not overmix or the muffin police will arrest you. Add the onion, feta, sundried tomatoes and spinach and stir until evenly distributed.
Spoon into twelve muffin cases or wrappers or if you don't wish to use these, brush the insides of the muffin tin with melted butter.
Bake in the oven for 30-35 mins or until a skewer comes out clean.
These are best served warm so I give you full permission to eat them all as soon as they come out of the oven. Alternatively cool and then refresh for a few minutes in the oven when required.
Back to Greece again in October for a mini break and some garden harvesting. Walnuts and pomegranates were a welcome surprise. The pomegranates didn't look like what I thought ripe pomegranates looked like, they were more of a golden colour, but had started to burst so we tasted them...so sweet! Promptly made a pomegranate syrup for gin o'clock and stuffed some in my suitcase to bring home. I used those on Ottolenghi's Barley and Pomegranate salad from Plenty which is beautiful and has opened up my eyes to the possibility of pearl barley not just being something I hurl into casseroles. On that subject I also refer you to Gill Meller's Stuffed Squash with Fennel and Barley from Gather....just lovely. But I digress...
Greek Coffee and Walnut Cake
- 225g unsalted butter
- 225g caster sugar
- 4 eggs
- 225g plain flour
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 50 ml strong Greek coffee (or strong espresso coffee)
- 75g walnuts, finely chopped
- 150g unsalted butter
- 300g icing sugar
- 15 ml strong Greek coffee (or strong espresso coffee)
- Walnut halves, toasted, to decorate
Grease and line the base of two victoria sandwich tins. Preheat oven to 180°C/Fan 160°C°C.
Cream butter and sugar with an electric whisk until light and fluffy.
Add eggs gradually, whisk until combined.
Sieve flour and baking powder and gently fold into mixture.
Stir in 50 ml Greek coffee and chopped walnuts.
Divide evenly into the sandwich tins and bake for 25 mins.
Remove from oven and leave to cool in tin for 5 mins before turning out onto wire tray. Allow to cool.
For the buttercream, cream butter and icing sugar together with electric whisk until light and fluffy. Add Greek coffee then a dash of milk if buttercream too stiff. Taste for coffee strength, add more if necessary. Whisk for approx 5-10 mins. Place in piping bag and pipe circle onto one half of the cake. Place second half on top. Spread a thin layer of buttercream over the top of the cake and then pipe dots of buttercream pulling off towards you to make a teardrop shape. Drag the back of a teaspoon from the top towards you to create the design illustrated. Pipe decoration on top and finish with walnut halves.
It's taken longer than usual to get round to my blog post, things seem to have got very busy of late. Am now working in the Stour Space Cafe in Hackney Wick so if you are in the area, come say hi. Ooh and try their veggie breakfast, it's flippin' lovely.