Thursday, June 23, 2011

Red Velvet Cupcakes

I know cupcakes are all the rage at the moment, but can you blame them? Sweet, delicate, melt-in-your-mouth morsels. One of my favourites is Red Velvet -  beautiful chocolate and buttermilk flavours, with a natural reddish tinge, and a delicious cream cheese icing. The reddish colour of the cake comes from a reaction between the low-refined cocoa and the acid in the buttermilk, so no food colouring needed! I’ve heard of people using all sorts to get a really deep red, food colour, beet juice, cranberry juice, but really, I think they’re beautiful as is. The time I made these, I got a bit carried away, as we were having people over for dinner, so I garnished with a few fresh blueberries and strawberries, which added a nice tart element, which cut through some of the sweet of the sugary icing. A huge hit with the family, and they go great when made with gluten-free flour.

Red Velvet Cupcakes
•    2 ½ cups plain flour
•    1tsp baking powder
•    Pinch salt
•    2 tbsp low-refined cocoa
•    ½ cup butter
•    2 eggs
•    1 tsp vanilla essence
•    1 cup buttermilk (or 1 cup milk + 20ml apple cider vinegar)
•    1tsp white or apple cider vinegar
•    1tsp baking soda

Preheat your oven to 180C, and line a cupcake tray with papers.

Sift flour, baking powder, and salt into a bowl. In a large, separate bowl, cream together the sugar and butter, then beat in the eggs, add the vanilla and cocoa, and mix until well combined. Add 1/3 of the flour mix, and half of the buttermilk, mix until combined, then repeat until all of the flour and buttermilk has been incorporated. Mix the vinegar and baking soda, and add to the batter. Divide amoungst the wells in your tray, and bake for 20 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean when poked into the middle.

Once the cupcakes are out of the oven and cooling, combine equal parts cream cheese and unsalted butter with icing sugar and a drop or two of vanilla essence, and work until there are no lumps. The ratios will vary depending on everything from the weather to the cheese you use, but I usual start with 125g each of cream cheese and butter, then add the icing sugar slowly until it is the consistency I’m after. If you’re using a piping bag, so go a touch stiffer than you think you’ll need, as the heat from your hands will cause the icing to soften. Once the cupcakes are completely cooled, transfer the icing to a piping bag fitted with a star-shaped nozzle, and apply with as much artistic flourish as you deem necessary. Once finished, you can leave them as it, add a dusting of cocoa, or a few berries. Enjoy with a creamy hot chocolate and a good friend.

Red Velvet & Berry goodness!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Midwinter Musings & Pasta Lunches

Midwinter, when the days are short, the mornings chill, the sun’s first light glinting from a thin layer of frost on the cables strung between buildings. The wind blows cold from the south, faces burrow into colourful scarves, hands warmed around cups of takeaway coffee, sheltered from the chill by delightfully thick coats, when layers become a necessity, rather than merely fashion. I really love winter. I love curling up under piles of blankets, waking up to misty streets, the initial thrill of cold feet when Matt climbs into bed, and all the delicious, rich, warm food that keeps us sustained through the winter months.
Unfortunately, cold weather means many more hours spent indoors, so to pass the time, I’ve decided to play catch-up with a few of the things that have been going on in my kitchen that I never got around to posting. First up, this delicious number from a few weeks ago. Typical cupboard raid stuff that proves that you can make something delicious in the time it takes to cook your pasta!

Fridge/pantry raid!
Pastalicious lunch

On the board

  • Olive Oil (I promise it's not really vodka in that bottle!)
  • 2 serves of short pasta
  • 1 red onion, finely diced
  • ½ spicy chorizo, diced
  • ½ eggplant, diced
  • 2 medium tomatoes, diced
  • 2-4 marinated artichoke hearts, drained & chopped
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • Baby Spinach
  • Fresh parmesan or goats chevre to serve

Bring a pot of water on to boil, and add your pasta of choice. A short pasta, such as fusilli or penne, works well for this sort of dish. In a frying pan, heat a little olive oil on medium to high, and sauté some finely diced red onion. You don’t need a lot of oil, as the chorizo will provide more than enough! Once the onions are glassy, add half a spicy chorizo sausage, diced, and toss frequently until it has released some of its beautiful juices, and is starting to cook through. Add a generous handful or two of diced eggplant, two diced tomatoes, roughly chopped artichoke hearts (drained), and a good slosh of balsamic vinegar (about a tablespoon?), then mix thoroughly. By the time the pasta has finished cooking, the tomatoes should have started to break down over the heat, and create a bit of sauce. Drain the pasta well, add to the frying pan with a good handful of baby spinach, and toss both through the sauce. Serve with a grate of fresh parmesan, or some crumbled goats chevre, and enjoy!

Ready to serve, delicious!