Cinnamon & pear muffins

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I’m finding myself with a lot of tinned goods recently, not unlike many people in our little shaky isles in the wake of our 7.8 earthquake.  It pays to be prepared.

I’ve heard the comment more than once that tinned pears are the least exciting of the tinned fruits….pale, bland, only good when topped with ice cream.  I had a hunch that this was wrong, but how to prove it?  By coupling tinned pears with brown sugar, butter and cinnamon, that’s how.

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I’ve taken my inspiration for the muffin base from Donna Hay’s basic muffin batter.  Which is delicious if you’re on the hunt for a reliable basic muffin, by the way.  I will of course buy a replacement tin of pears for our emergency food stash, but this idea for pear-topped muffins could not wait any longer.  Sunday night requires a sweet little pick-me-up, amiright?

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For these you will need (makes 12):

  • 1 cup plain flour
  • 1 cup wholemeal flour
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla essence

For the topping:

  • 1 tin of pear quarters, drained and cut into thin slices
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 knob of butter, melted

Method:

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees centigrade and grease a 12-cup muffin tin.

Place the dry ingredients into a large bowl and stir to combine.

In a smaller bowl, mix the egg, milk, oil and vanilla essence.  Add this to the dry ingredients and mix only until just combined.

Spoon the batter evenly into the muffin tray cups.  Arrange the sliced pears on the top of the batter.

Combine the topping ingredients and distribute over the top of the pears.

Bake for 25-30 minutes until a skewer comes out clean.

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Homemade Hundreds and Thousands biscuits

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Toddlers and sugar, a match made in heaven?  Probably not for their parents, but when it’s your niece’s third birthday party and you said you’d make biscuits, it’s hardly time to skimp on the sugar.

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I was inspired to make these little numbers by one of New Zealand’s favourite cookie treats…the Hundreds and Thousands biscuit.  The name is pretty self-evident, although perhaps not if you hail from elsewhere in the world outside of New Zealand.  ‘Hundreds and Thousands’ is our antipodean name for the rainbow sprinkles on top of these cookies, but other terms include nonpareils and jimmies.

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I can’t find must history about this biscuit itself, but there are a few stories behind the origins of Hundreds and Thousands.  Some claim they were invented in a New York candy factory in the 1930s, whilst others say that they come from Parisian bakers.

Whatever the origin, it can’t be denied that a liberal sprinkling of on a pink-iced vanilla cookie is an appropriate party treat.  I used Donna Hay’s vanilla snaps recipe for the base and the rest was pretty simple.

Vanilla biscuits:

  • 250g butter
  • 3/4 cup caster sugar
  • 2 t vanilla extract
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 2 & 1/4 cups plain flour, sifted

Icing:

  • 1/3 cup softened butter
  • 1 & 1/2 cup icing sugar
  • Pink food colouring
  • Strawberry essence
  • Hundreds and Thousands / Sprinkles / Jimmies or whatever you call them!

Beat the butter and sugar together until pale and creamy.  And the vanilla extract and egg yolk and beat again.

Finally add the flour and beat until a dough forms.  Wrap the dough in cling film and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

 

Heat the oven to 180 degrees celsius.  Roll the dough on a lightly floured surface until 3mm thick.

Cut rounds or shapes from the dough and place on baking-paper lined trays.  Bake until just golden – this took ten minutes in my oven.

Cool on racks.  Make the icing by adding the icing sugar to the butter, a drop of colouring and strawberry essence and beating well, using a little hot water to soften as needed.   When cold, ice with pink icing and sprinkle liberally with hundreds and thousands.

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Kisir, via Bromley

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Catching up is an excellent excuse for eating.

I’ve been away having numerous catch-ups and visiting some favourite old haunts. London is a favourite old haunt and feels a little like a second home, in no small part because of the many fabulous people living there who I am lucky enough to call my friends.

Some of my happiest London memories involve long afternoons with our friends Patricia and Omer, eating delicious home-cooked Mediterranean food and perfecting cidra-pouring as afternoon slipped into evening.  So of course I jumped at the chance for a catch-up over a home-cooked meal at theirs.

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Patricia, Omer and their gorgeous children live in Bromley, South London.  I have a special little spot in my heart for this part of London as my grandparents lived there with my Mum when she was small. There is a treasured 1950’s clock from Locksbottom which still hangs on their wall, albeit in their rest home unit.  So you will understand I couldn’t resist taking this photo of a Locksbottom bus as we walked back to Bromley station.

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This post is inspired by the delicious couscous salad Patricia and Omer served with lamb and slices of avocado.  I’ve based it on a Turkish kisir but I can’t promise it’s as good as Omer’s.  It’s a pretty good lunch though, and a recommend serving it with sliced avocado.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup cooked couscous
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 T red pepper paste
  • 2 tomatoes, diced
  • 1/2 telegraph cucumber, diced
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed then sliced
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1/2 chopped parsley
  • 3-4 sprigs of mint, chopped
  • 3 spring onions, sliced
  • 1 t salt
  • 1 t black pepper
  • 1 t chilli flakes
  • Fresh avocado slices to serve (if desired)

Place your couscous in a large salad bowl.  Pour over the olive oil and mix thoroughly; some kisir recipes even recommend mixing with your hands. Next, add the red pepper paste, again mixing in very thoroughly.

I made my own paste by whizzing up a jar of roasted peppers.  For the more dedicated, there are some amazing-sounding recipes for making red pepper paste, or biber salçası, from scratch.  I loved reading this one with its beautiful, mouth-watering photography.

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The vegetables, lemon juice, herbs and seasonings go in last.  Keep mixing until everything is evenly spread and combined.  I recommend popping this in the fridge for an hour or two before serving to let the flavours mingle.
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I was greatly assisted in making my own kisir by this and this recipe.