Category Archives: Spring Recipes

Carciofini, and other stories

carciofi in pot

Life is busy at the moment.  The Teaching Kitchen is alive with chatter, chopping, questions, learning and eating. Heirlooms & Wooden Spoons is no longer just a sporadic blog, but a living, breathing cooking school in the heart of Seattle.

IMG_8309The last few months have included cheese making with kids, knife skills for the nervous, chocolate making, recreating favourite recipes from Yotam Ottolenghi’s Plenty, and dinners.  Lots and lots of dinners. Demonstrating the art of Tagine making in the Atrium Kitchen in Pike Place Market last week was a highlight. The electricity created by the hustle and bustle of the Market is infectious.  Showcasing produce from my favourite suppliers, my favourite season, in my favourite Seattle spot, surrounded by old friends and new was magic.  Just magic.  Having my son help hand around Harissa filled me with pride.  It is official – H&WS is a family business.

But this is about Carciofi.  Or carciofini to be precise.

My husband despairs of me at times, and when I come home with a large grin and an armful of tiny artichokes his eyes roll into the back of his head just a little more than usual.  For me, these gorgeous little gems signify that summer really is coming.  In fact, that somewhere (namely Italy) it has already warmed up enough to produce these spiky little edible flowers. My husband is known for many things. Patience is not one of them.

It is true that this is not a dish you can whip up for a quick and easy supper, in fact, it will take you a lot longer to make than it will to eat. And so, I savour every moment of preparation, knowing that every second spent handling these precious purple flowers will be worth it the moment I pop it into my mouth.

Years ago, working at La Fromagerie, I would spend literally hours happily turning, trimming and packing them, as the hustle and steam of the kitchen simmered around me.  Once prepped and on the stove, the terror of over cooking, crisping, undercooking or, God help me – burning them – was palpable.  Not just the cost of the raw ingredients (a crate or two of baby carciofi, a couple of litres of Olive Oil) but also the time it had taken were at stake. I still feel the fear in the pit of my stomach.  A fear only quenched by filling it with the end result. Artichoke confit is something I look forward to making every year. Go on. I dare you.

Not really a Recipe…

Take as many artichokes as you can carry/afford. carefully cut off a little of the bottom and peel the excess tougher outer petals off.  Trim the tip of the petals and place in a heavy bottomed pot or oven proof dish bottom up.  Pack them in tightly but don’t totally crush them.  Pack half of a lemon, whole garlic cloves, a few bay leaves, a couple of chillies and plenty of fresh mint in and around them.  Scatter a few peppercorns and sea salt and then pour over good olive oil until the are virtually submerged.  Cook stove top very gently until soft, or in the oven, not too hot, again until just soft.  Squeeze the cooked lemon and soft garlic over the artichokes, add more fresh torn mint, and salt to taste. Eat straight out of the pot once cooled down a little with a cold glass of dry white.  Ideally with the sun on your face.

leaves of carciofini

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Filed under Everything!, Spring Recipes

Spiced Apple Muffins

 

Breakfasts are a big deal in our house.  Mostly, because we hardly ever have them.  Breakfast for me is usually a battered banana grabbed with my ‘venti  latte’ after the school drop off, and invariably on the run.  A protein shake has been breakfast of choice for the man of the house of late, and a piece of toast slathered with peanut butter scoffed in his car seat on the way to school is usually what passes for a well-rounded first meal for my four-year-old.  I should know better.  Peanut butter, toast and cars is not a good culinary combination.

Seriously… I really should know better.  I actually do know better.  I am trained to know better.   In fact, thanks to this training and experience I am paid real money occasionally to advise on the nutritional value of meals, the importance of whole grains, the way to construct balanced menus and ensure that meals include the necessary amounts of carbs, proteins and fresh produce.  But stuff all that.  I am a mother.  I really really should know better.

I am admitting all this because I am hoping that others will relate to the logistic impossibility of feeding a family a three course meal and getting out of the door before half past seven.  I also know that the reason my son is slumped against the wall at his football lesson (which he has been counting how many sleeps until all week), picking his nose, and gazing at the sky, is because he didn’t have a decent breakfast. 

Today, though, I feel as though I have cracked it.

Fresh fruit, glass of milk and a muffin.  Easy.  In fact, I have now discovered it is even easier if you measure out the dry and wet ingredients in separate bowls, and lay out the muffin cases the night before.   Just grate the apple into the wet ingredients while the oven heats up, mix them all together, fill the cases, and pop them into the oven while you’re in the shower.  By the time you are dressed, and your brood has made it to the table, the house is filled with an aroma that should be able to entice even the pickiest of eaters.  With fruit, fibre and a full belly, my wannabe Beckham is ready for the day, and (at least for the time it takes to drive to school), I get to feel like mother of the week.

Spiced Apple Muffins

2 cups plain flour (or 1 plain and 1 wholemeal if feeling virtuous)

1 TBSP baking powder

2/3 cup caster sugar

1 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp mixed spice

2/3 cup canola/corn/sunflower oil

1 cup milk

2 eggs

1 TBSP vanilla extract

1 grated apple (peel and all…but not the core!), 2 if they are very small.  Squeeze out excess juice.

1 TBSP oatmeal to sprinkle on top

Method

Preheat oven to 180C.

Place muffin cups (large cupcake cases) into muffin holes in tin ready to receive mixture.

Mix all the dry ingredients together in a large bowl.  You can use a whisk to do this – just make sure everything is well combined and evenly distributed – you don’t want a clump of cinnamon or baking powder when you bite into them!  In a separate bowl, mix all the wet ingredients together, as well as the grated apple until totally combined.  Tip wet into dry and mix with a fork until they just combine.  Do not over-mix or you will end up with a tough, bouncy muffin.

Use an ice cream scoop to measure out wet muffin mix into the cases – it limits the spillage and you can measure out mix more accurately.  Fill cases to ¾ full for a lovely high topped muffin or half full for a more cupcake style version.

Sprinkle with oatmeal, bake for about 12 minutes and remove when they are puffed up, golden, and spring back when touched.  Eat hot!

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Filed under Autumn, Fun to do with little people..., Recipes, Spring Recipes, Summer, Sweet, Winter