Blini Cook Up

Blinis (adapted from Seriouseats.com) – makes around 40

Ingredients

Dry ingredients

70g buckwheat flour

35g plain flour

1 tsp sugar

½ tsp salt

½ tsp baking powder

¼ tsp bicarbonate of soda

Wet ingredients

200g milk

50g yoghurt

1 large egg yolk

1 large egg white – keep separated at first

15g melted butter, cooled slightly

5g vegetable oil (½ tbsp)

Method

Blinis (adapted from Seriouseats.com) – makes around 40

Combine the dry ingredients in a bowl and whisk to mix evenly, ensure there are no clumps and to introduce a bit of air into the mix.

In a second bowl, whisk together the wet ingredients – except the egg white.

In a third bowl, whip the egg white until it holds stiff peaks. If you have it, you can put half a tsp of vinegar or a pinch of cream of tartar in with the egg white before whipping to aid with the foaming.

Mix the wet ingredients, except the egg white, into the dry ingredients to form a batter. Once combined, carefully fold in the whipped egg white into the batter, trying not to lose all of the air the white will incorporate.

Use the batter as soon as possible to make the blinis to conserve the air in the mix. Heat a non-stick pan until medium-hot, then very lightly grease it with vegetable oil. Spoon the mixture into the pan in amounts of a scant dessert spoon. Cook over a medium-high heat, looking out for small holes to appear in the upper surface of the blini as it cooks. Once these have formed and the underside has taken on a little colour (around 2 minutes), flip the blinis and cook for another 2 minutes to finish.

Top the blinis with your preferred garnishes. In our session we had lumpfish roe with creme fraiche and chives. We also had hot-smoked trout flaked into a little yoghurt, seasoned with cider vinegar and black pepper and garnished with dill.

Smoked salmon, sour cream or cream cheese, pickles, onion and other herbs such as chervil or parsley would all be good. For vegetarian options, smoky slow-cooked aubergine, chopped roasted red pepper or coarse mushroom pates would all be good.

Chocolate and mint dessert – makes 4

Ingredients

Mint essence swiss meringue (makes several extra meringues):

2 large egg whites (or just use 1 and keep the other for another use, you will need 2 yolks for the chocolate pot)

Golden caster sugar

Mint essence

Green food colouring

Fresh mint cream:

200g double cream

10 sprigs of mint, washed, stalks included

Golden caster sugar

Chocolate pot (adapted from Felicity Cloake in the Guardian):

75g chocolate with very high cocoa solids, 80-100%

2 large egg yolks

20g golden caster or light brown soft sugar

Small pinch of salt

100g milk

75g double cream

Four tumbler glasses

Garnish:

Dark cocoa powder

Small mint leaves

Method (minimum time before assembling the dessert 3 ½ hours, can be begun the day before)

Preheat your oven to 100C.

In a heatproof bowl (which could be the bowl of your stand mixer if appropriate), weigh the egg whites. Multiply the weight of the whites by 1.5 and add this quantity of caster sugar, so if the eggs weigh 80g, add 120g sugar. Set the egg white and sugar over a gently simmering pan of water (make sure the water is not touching the bottom of the bowl) and stir with a spatula to dissolve the sugar. Keep heating and stirring until the mixture has reached a temperature of 80C.* Once at this temperature, begin to whip the mixture, ideally in a stand mixer or with an electric whisk. Once a foam has begun to form, add mint flavouring and green colouring to your personal taste. Keep whipping until you have made a meringue texture – voluminous and very glossy. This type of meringue (Swiss meringue) is very stable and is now cooked and ready to eat, but we are also going to bake it gently to make it crunchy.

Line a baking sheet with parchment and spoon the whipped meringue onto the parchment in little blobs around the size of a large walnut. You will probably have around 20 if you have used both egg whites. You only need 4 for the chocolate pots, so you can keep the other meringues for another recipe or eat them on their own. Bake the meringues in the 100C oven for 90 minutes, then turn off the oven, leaving the meringues inside. Leave the meringues in the cooling oven for at least another 90 minutes or up to overnight. Reserve in airtight containers until you want to assemble the chocolate desserts.

To make the fresh mint cream, heat the cream gently in a non-stick saucepan until just below the boil, then take off the heat and add the mint sprigs. Keep the mint in the cream as it cools, for a minimum of 1 hr or up to overnight in the fridge. Once the mint has infused, strain the mixture through a sieve to remove the mint from the cream. Discard the mint. Reserve the infused cream in the fridge.

To make the chocolate pot, first whip the egg yolks, sugar and salt in a stand mixer or with an electric whisk until pale and voluminous.

Chop the chocolate up into small pieces – no bigger than a little fingernail.

Heat the milk and cream (not the reserved mint cream) gently in a non-stick pan until just below the boil. Turn off the heat and add the chopped chocolate. Stir briefly to coat the chocolate then leave for two minutes. After this time, stir the mixture to fully combine the melted chocolate into the dairy. If it still looks slightly grainy, heat the mixture on the lowest heat possible, stirring all the time to finish melting the chocolate into the dairy. If the mixture is heated too much, the fats can split out of the mixture.

Once the chocolate is evenly melted into the dairy, pour the warm mixture into the whipped egg yolk whilst continuing to whip it, combining fully. Divide between four tumbler glasses and allow to cool, then chill in the fridge for a minimum of an hour.

Soon before you are ready to assemble the desserts, weigh the amount of mint-infused cream you have reserved and add 1/10th of its weight in sugar. Whip, preferably with a hand whisk until the cream just holds very soft peaks. If whipped until too thick, it can be hard to layer on top of the chocolate pot and makes for a less pleasant texture.

To assemble, take the reserved chocolate pots and layer the mint cream on top of them. Break up one or two of the small meringues per dessert into small pieces and arrange on top of the cream. Using a tea strainer, dust a very light dusting of cocoa powder over the meringue pieces. Garnish with a few small mint leaves.

* If you don’t have a probe thermometer that can read the temperature of the egg-sugar mix, make the meringue as a French meringue instead, whipping the room temperature egg whites and sugar, along with the flavour and colour, until you have a voluminous and glossy meringue, then follow the instructions above to bake.

Around the Table Calling From the Back of Your Cupboard

“Calling from the Back of your Cupboard!” is a response to the unprecedented times we are living. This creative project seeks to reflect on some of the difficulties we are currently facing, through recycling, story telling, cooking and photographing.

“Mike, Kasia and I were disappointed not to be able to meet in person for the originally planned workshop in which we would have created dishes and photographs together…but this phone chain has been a lovely thing to initiate.

It was great to have a chat and fascinating to discover the very special ingredients we keep secret in our cupboards!” – artist Caroline Gervay

We had 3 groups – Lowestoft, Claydon and Bury St Edmunds.

Each member of the group called another member from their group with the first phone call setting the instructions to be passed on. These were the questions that were discussed:

What secret ingredient did you discover or rediscover at the back of your cupboard?
Is it something you had forgotten about?
Is it something you don’t know how to cook?
Have you ever cooked it?
Would it go nicely with another ingredient?
Have you forgotten what it is?
Is it decanted into a jar or is it in its original packaging?
Is it out of date?
Do you remember how it ended up there and why it’s still there?

Each group ended up with a list of ingredients, click each ingredient below to see suggested uses.

Some mysterious plum sauce

A Joe Wicks inspired tamarind paste jar

How to make savoury muffins and sweet muffins

Bran Muffins – makes 6-9 muffins depending on the size of your tins/cases
Wet ingredients
1 large egg
50g oil or 60g butter, melted and cooled
75g grated vegetables or apples/pears
150g yoghurt or 90g milk

Dry ingredients
75g white self-raising flour
50g bran (if you don’t have bran, substitute with more flour)
50g sugar (if you are making sweet muffins)
1 tsp spice if using
½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp bicarb
50g – 75g inclusions such as nuts, dried fruit, cheese

Preheat your fan oven to 190C (210C without the fan, Gas Mark 6-7).

Sift the flour and mix well with the other dry ingredients. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg and then whisk in the other wet ingredients. Add the wet mix to the dry mix and combine using a spatula until they are only just combined. It’s crucial not to over-mix, even the odd streak of uncombined flour is fine.

Line your muffin tin with muffin cases, spoon the mix into the cases (no higher than the top of the case) and bake for 20 – 25 minutes at 190C. The muffins should brown a little on top and you can check they are cooked by inserting a skewer into the middle, which should come out clean rather than being coated in wet, uncooked mix.

• For the savoury muffins, we had carrot, coriander, lime pickle, feta, made with butter and yoghurt

• For the sweet muffins we had date, raisin, cinnamon, pear, made with sunflower oil and milk

Some ideas for modifications

• For the fruit/veg element – apples, courgettes, parsnips, celeriac, beetroot

• For the spices – cumin, smoked paprika, clove, allspice, ground ginger, turmeric, nutmeg, caraway, sumac, dried herbs

• For the flours (use along with some wheat flour) – buckwheat, barley, rye, oat, chickpea, yellow pea, rice

• For the inclusions – hard cheeses, tofu, pickles, seeds, nuts, dried fruits, chocolate pieces

• For the yoghurt or milk: buttermilk, cheese whey, sour cream, creme fraiche, plant-based milks – be aware that you may need to alter the amount you use of these ingredients, depending on how thick or thin they are.

• For the neutral oil or butter: olive oil, lard, toasted sesame oil (use a bit less and top up with neutral oil), pumpkin seed oil, nut oils

• You could brown the butter in the recipe (cook in pan until the solids in the butter caramelise) for a nutty, toasted flavour

• The sweet muffins could be topped with nuts, buttercream, or a sauce such as butterscotch

Here are some of the delicious muffins that have been made since …..