Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Savoury Cakes, Muffins, Scones and Tartlets

Scones, butter and a cup of all helps.

It's been a sad week for me and I haven't felt much like communicating. But friends have said to me that at times like this it is important to do a few 'normal' things and normal for me is cooking and blogging, so I've conjured up this blog from the archives.

There are certain recipes on my blog which have proved much more popular than the rest: a recipe for courgette tart has been shared most often on Pinterest, my recipe for mushy peas (extraordinarily) caused the most controversy and comments on the Guardian website, several other recipes have appeared on other people's blogs - but by far and away the most clicked-on recipe on this blog remains the one for olive cakes.

Olive Cakes

This recipe was given to me by French friends after I'd eaten these delectable savoury muffins at an al fresco lunch in the South of France.

The lunch that launched 1000 clicks
Since then I've made it again and again - as a dinner party starter, smaller versions for a canape at a buffet, or just as a supper meal in its own right.

I've also made lots of variations on a theme and that is what I would like to share with you today on the blog.

First of all, of course- the olive cakes themselves.

Ingredients: (to make a dozen medium muffins)
160 g olives (green or black according to your preference) chopped coarsely
100 g self raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
2 large eggs
1 pot of natural yogurt or 100ml of milk
80 ml olive oil
100g grated emmental or cheddar
1. Sift the flour and baking powder together
2. Mix in the olives and cheese
3. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix until you have a thick batter
4. Spoon or pour into silicone (or paper) muffin moulds
5. Bake at 200 degrees for 20-25 minutes until risen and golden
6. Serve warm or cold with a green salad.

Now that you have the basic mix, there are lots of ways to vary it- experimenting with different flavours: sweetcorn and cheddar, red and green peppers, aubergine 'mud pies' (so called because of their beigy-brown colour!) made with aubergine puree added to the mix,  and here black pudding, apple and cider.
Black Pudding and Apple Muffins

The mix works well incidentally with a variety of different cheeses- so if you are lactose intolerant, you can use goat's cheese or Pecorino, (or indeed not bother with cheese if you don't like it- the other flavours are strong enough to carry the little cakes whatever).
If you are gluten intolerant, then substitute lentil or chickpea flour for a nuttier but equally tasty version (and achieve a similar effect with wholemeal or buckwheat flour too, if you like a denser cake.)

You can also bake the mix as a loaf and slice it to serve. Here I've made Courgette and Pesto Cake which I urge you to try as it was scrumptious!

150g self raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
2 courgettes
2 tbsp green pesto
juice of half a lemon
2 eggs
200ml natural yoghurt
100ml olive oil
100g grated Parmesan or Pecorino
1 tsp each salt and ground pepper
1. Pre-heat the oven to 200 degrees
2. Sift together the flour and the baking powder and salt
3. Add the eggs, yoghurt and olive oil and beat well
4. Wash and grate the courgettes using a coarse grater or food processor.
5. Wrap in a clean J cloth or tea towel and squeeze hard to remove all excess liquid
Squeeze out the moisture
6. Add the courgettes, lemon, pesto and cheese to the cake mix and beat well.
7. Pour into a buttered and lined loaf tin and bake for 45 minutes until golden and when a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean. (Cover with aluminium foil for the last 10 minutes if it is browning too quickly.)
8. Cool on a wire rack and serve warm.

Mix and pour into the mould

Bake until golden
Courgette and Pesto Cake

You are probably thinking of other flavour combinations now to try. Here's a few ideas (which I haven't tried yet- but why not beat me to it!): chorizo and black olive, smoked salmon and dill, bacon and cheese, ham and mushroom, 3 cheese or pine nut and sun dried tomato.

The same principle applies to scones: once you have your basic savoury scone mix (as below) then any of the above flavour combinations will enliven them.
Savoury scones
Cheese Scones:

225g oz plain flour
60 g butter
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
125g grated cheese
1 tsp mustard
150ml milk (approx)

1. Sift the flour, salt and baking powder into a bowl
2. Rub the fat into the flour
3. Mix in the cheese and mustard
4. Add the milk until you have a soft dough
5. Roll out to 3cm thickness and cut out scone shapes
6. Place on a greased baking tray, brush with milk and bake at 180 degrees for 10-15 minutes until golden.

Vary it any way you choose.

 I like spring onion and cheddar, but am also partial to marmite and cheese scones too.

On a cookery course, I took part in a Scon-athon- all of us baking our signature scones and there were so many variations it was like the Galapagos Islands of Baked Goods. (I'm the one hiding in the blue stripey apron. I made sure my scones were at the back).

Zoom in for some scone ideas

Finally, I just want to share some scrumptious tartlet ideas with you.

As an experiment, instead of shortcrust pastry, I used puff pastry (as I had some to use up) as the base for some smoked salmon and asparagus tartlets- and was very pleased with the result.

Salmon andAspargus Tartlets
Here is the recipe:

For 4-5 tartlets

1 roll of ready-rolled puff pastry
10 asparagus spears (steamed till tender)
50g smoked salmon trimmings
2 eggs
100ml milk

1. Cut tartlet shapes from the pastry, place in tartlet tins and bake blind for 10 minutes or so
2. Lay the asparagus spears and the snipped up salmon equally in the tart cases
3. Mix the eggs, milk and seasoning together in a jug and carefully pour into the cases
4. Bake at 180 degrees for 15 minutes or so until risen, firm and golden.

Again, once you've got the idea then try some variations- smoked haddock and sweetcorn for little chowder pies, or anchovy, onion and olive for Pissaladiere tartlets
Pissaladiere Tart
- are two that spring to mind.

All of these are great for using up leftovers- just look in the fridge, see what's there and let the ingredients guide you to success.

Sorry it's a short blog today. I hope I'll be back on form soon.

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