British food often gets a bad rap, and in my opinion it is an entirely undeserved reputation. My gran has lots of old recipe books from the Milk Marketing Board celebrating the great range and variety of local produce from different regions of the country, complete with some rather unappetizing 70’s era food photography!
I went to university in Cardiff, the capital of Wales, and was very gladly introduced to the local speciality, welshcakes. They are essentially a flat scone, studded with sultanas before being cooked on a hot griddle and liberally sprinkled with sugar. They can be eaten hot or cold, on their own or split and filled with jam, even with lemon curd (although I’m not sure what the traditional Welsh purists will have to say about that!) It goes without saying that the best place to get them is at the Cardiff Bakestone in the indoor market, where stacks of cakes are constantly being churned out from an enormous hot griddle bigger than the average table, then sold at a charming 30p a pop.
Now, I know that chocolate brownies don’t exactly scream frugal student living, but bear with me. At university, birthdays seem to occur on an almost weekly basis, squeezing that already tight budget. With the absence of parents, cake can often go overlooked, so these brownies are a great alternative, as well as being much cheaper that the average shop-bought offering. I like to cut them into squares, pile them high on a plate and liberally cover them with icing sugar and candles – party ready!
Brownies are a brilliant starter for a baking novice. They’re meant to be a bit on the squidgy side so it takes off the pressure of baking something perfectly! You can also personalise them however you like. I’ve added mixed chopped nuts, but you can substitute them for chocolate chips, other nuts or even cherries – get creative!
As a new season and new term starts, it’s time for a new recipe. I made these in the slight hope of making a dent in the enormous quantity of apples we now have stacked in the garage after a particularly autumnal wind brought them all down from some of the trees in the garden. Even after stewing and pie-ing and eating, it still looks the same! Apples, raisins and a hit of cinnamon make these muffins deliciously seasonal.
These fruit-packed muffins are ideal for when mornings get the better of us and a grab-and-go breakfast is essential. Despite the misleading title, they are also brilliant for lunches as they are a bit more robust than the usual muffin – they can be slung in the bottom of a rucksack for the day and still come out looking like a muffin! Like most muffins, these freeze well and can double up as an ice pack in a little one’s lunchbox, defrosting (hopefully!) just in time for lunch.
These arose from the annual glut of courgettes. After having them grilled, fried, baked, and in soup and chutney, and still having a never ending supply from the veg patch, I started looking for more creative ways to use them up.
I first heard of Harry Eastwood and her vegetable adventures on BBC Breakfast (while in a hotel room in Iceland, bizarrely) a few years ago, and subsequently bought her book, the gorgeously named Red Velvet and Chocolate Heartache. However, as often happens with cookbooks, it had been pushed to the back of the shelf and largely forgotten about until my courgette quest led me to turf it out. It’s such a beautifully written and photographed book that it’s worth a read even if you never intend to make any of the recipes, but on discovering the dregs of a packet of pistachio nuts I had to experiment.
Muffins are so simple and easy to make, it’s just a case of mixing dry ingredients with wet ingredients and blobbing the mix into cases. They also freeze really well, so there’s no need to fall for the mediocre ones sold for a small fortune these days. There are a seemingly endless amount of flavour combinations that can be baked into a paper case of yumminess, so let’s start with a favourite: chocolate chip.