Using apples from my recent fruit and veg shopping trip at the Chiswick House Kitchen Garden sale, I decided to make something healthy and delicious for breakfast, making a welcome change from the usual cereals and scrambled eggs.
Apple Oat Breakfast Muffins
1 1/2 cups plain flour
1 cup medium stoneground oatmeal
2 1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
3/4 cup golden caster sugar
2 large free range eggs
125g unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1/2 cup of semi-skimmed cow’s or plant based milk (almond milk adds a lovely nutty flavour which compliments the apple)
2 large apples (approx 1 1/4 cups), peeled and diced
Preheat oven to 350 F/ 177 C/ Gas Mark 4, then line a 12-cup muffin baking tray with cup cake cases.
In a medium sized bowl sieve the flour, oats, baking powder and cinnamon.
In a separate bowl, whisk together the sugar, eggs, butter and milk.
Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, followed by the apple. Using a folding motion, combine all the ingredients gently together to form a thick batter.
Divide the batter evenly between the muffin cups. I used an old fashioned ice cream scoop, but a 1/4 cup measure can also be used.
Place the tray on the middle shelf of the oven and bake for about 20 mins, or until the tops spring back when lightly touched. Allow the muffins to cool in the tray for 5 minutes, before removing them to a wire rack to finish cooling.
Serve warm for breakfast with a cup of your favourite brew, or for lunch with a cheese salad.
Let me know if you try this recipe, it would be lovely to hear your feedback. Thanks for reading, and enjoy your baking.
Was the Caribbean Food Week Festival 2018 about authentic Caribbean food, or just Jamaican Jerk?
Continuing with Caribbean Food Month on Champagne Twist, last Saturday, I visited the Caribbean Food Week Festival at the new venue, Bernie Spain Gardens, on the Thames’ South Bank.
If you love Jerk Chicken, Curried Goat or Rice and Peas, the Caribbean Food Week Festival was a celebration of these 3 dishes, but if you wanted to learn about authentic Caribbean Cuisine, the menu was disappointing.
The Bernie Spain Gardens on the South Bank of the River Thames hosted the 2-day weekend food festival, just ahead of the London Carnival. Sadly, the opportunity to showcase the regions vast cuisines was missed and gave a poor overall impression of Caribbean Food.
In the age of plant-based diets, I was extremely disappointed not to see much of the fresh fruit and vegetables the Caribbean has to offer. Worse of all, the event was billed as a colourful celebration of Caribbean food, yet the main colours showcased, green, black and yellow, were that of the Jamaican flag.
It is now clear to me why so many people in the UK believe that Jamaica is the Caribbean and the Caribbean is Jamaica. The confusion is not helped when only 3 dishes from 1 island seemed to be ‘celebrated’, and the opportunity to sell fresh Caribbean fruit and veg was missed.
Officials from the Voice newspaper stall gave away an African and Caribbean restaurant guide, which was a great idea. I was also given a bag of free literature, including a newspaper from June and a magazine celebrating African heritage from October 2016. A two-year old magazine which didn’t even reference Caribbean food. I was also informed that they had run out of literature to give to patrons, shocking as the show started at 11am and before noon, they had run out. This hardly gave a positive impression.
Reading the phrase “Caribbean food’, I had expected examples of cuisine from each or at least the majority of the countries within the Caribbean. So when 95% of the available food was Jamaican based, of which 80% consisted of Jerk chicken, Curry goat and Rice and Peas, it did nothing to counteract the image of Caribbean food being limited.
There seems to be a sense of ‘protectionism’ over this cuisine, while understandable due to the historical exploitation of the region, the time has come for the Caribbean to promote its own food in an age when Western cultures are crying out for organic, pure food and drinks. Gone are the days when sugar was the cash crop. Coconut is now the superfood of choice, yet the majority of coconut products, despite the abundance, doesn’t come from the Caribbean.
I have often wondered, with its huge variety, and abundant fruit and vegetables, unique meat and world famous seafood, why Caribbean food isn’t that well known in the UK. This event goes some way to answering that question.
Referencing a tiny selection of Jamaican cuisine as representative of Caribbean cuisine not only limits people expectations of Jamaica food, it limits and potentially damages the reputation of all the countries within the region.
For vegetarians, it was almost impossible to find anything suitable to eat. I ended up with a dish consisting of Halloumi, fries and jerk sauce. While it was lovely, it was hardly a showcase of Caribbean food, especially when only 1 element of the dish, the jerk sauce, could be attributed to the region. Good luck to you if you’re a vegan! There were tofu sausages available on one stall, but not all vegetarians or vegans like or eat tofu.
I also hoped to listen to experts discussing Caribbean food and drink in relation to health, particularly in the wake of Dr Karin’s speech remarking the coconut oil is ‘pure poison’. Although, I was pleased that Grace Foods, the event’s hosts had provided a number of recipe leaflets, which included drinks and some plant-based recipes.
The cooking demonstrations were also interesting and proved to be the highlight of the festival, but again more should and could have been made of this. Over the weekend there are 2 different chefs, I attended the last day so was treated to 3 of the 4 live demos lead by Chef Solomon Smith. Unfortunately, the demos were meat or fish based and not vegetarian recipes. Samples were plentiful, but none were solely plant-based, which limited the number of people who could enjoy the samples.
The 3 picnic benches were beautifully painted, to encourage people to actually sit down and eat, but more benches should have been provided. A few large parasols wouldn’t have gone amiss, providing shade from the sun, or the rain, yet still keeping visitors in the area and providing relatively low-cost advertising.
In the middle of the space was a large grey vehicle, which many thought was a delivery van. Naturally many thought it should have been moved prior to the start of the festival. As it turns out, the van was there to help promote the Brixton Soup Kitchen, a charity which feeds and assists homeless people in the area. I am curious as to why there was no signage, or anyone standing by the van to explain the vehicle or the charity. It was only when I attended the cooking demos, that the situation was made somewhat clearer. More of this in a later post.
Travel companies missed a trick by not taking advantage of holiday seekers. There was one stall for people wishing to purchase or hire overseas property, but only for Jamaica, yet again, limiting choice.
The festival is now in its 3rd year, so still in its infancy. Previously held in Brixton, the move to the Bernie Spain Gardens was a stroke of genius, as the location is more central, making it more accessible for patrons, and taking advantage of a beautiful wide open space, flanked by the Thames, and a beautiful floral oasis, with multicultural art galleries, restaurants and shopping in the form of the OXO Tower and the Gabriel’s Wharf.
It usually takes at least 5 years or so for such events to become established, so I still have high hopes. A little fine tuning supported by the services from a good PR company, actively promoting all or least as many of the countries within the Caribbean, more emphasis on fresh produce, and celebrating the health benefits of the product, the festival could the late summer fixture, and the essential prelude to the Notting Hill Carnival.
Heck, all they need to bring on the colour is a flag display from all the countries in the region and maybe a few poster maps, establish a few fun and educational games (other than just a big Connect 4 and a few bean bags) for the kids, some fresh produce stalls and you have a true celebratory family-oriented festival. More live music wouldn’t go amiss, the obligatory steel pan band imagery is getting a little stale.
In fairness, for a free event, it’s not bad and such food festivals should be encouraged. There are a number of fundamental changes that need to be made over the next 2 years, if the festival has any chance of creating a movement that sustains and actively promotes the food of the Caribbean. Granted, the organiser of the festival is a Jamaican based company, so naturally, they are going to promote their country of origin. But that should not be at the near total expense of the other Caribbean countries, especially when the festival is called ‘Caribbean Food’. If they continue down this path, they are just shooting themselves in the foot and risk bringing down the entire region with them.
There is more to the Caribbean than Jamaica and Jerk seasoning, it’s about time people were made aware.
For day 3 of Caribbean Food Month, it’s time for a review. Coconut milk is one of the stables when it comes to Caribbean cookery. This versatile ingredient can be used in sweet and savoury dishes and lends itself to a multitude of international culinary treats. It also serves as an alternative to dairy.
Dunn’s River Coconut Milk has a thick, smooth texture with a light coconut flavour, meaning that it will work well with tea and coffee. It doesn’t have that sometimes clawy aftertaste when sampled on its own, although it does have a tendency to separate. But a quick stir with a spoon soon resolves that issue.
As a product in its own right, I can’t find much to fault it. As the saying goes, it say’s exactly what it is on the tin. As an ingredient, it works well without any problems, responding to heat well. It’s a great product to have in your pantry.
Rating 4.5 out of 5
Tomorrow’s blog includes recipe ideas featuring Dunn’s River Coconut Milk. Please return to find out more. Thanks for reading and if you’re in the UK or Spain – try to stay cool. I adore the sun, but 38 degrees is my limit. The thought of having to work in potentially 48 degree heat, makes the mind boggle. Best of luck!
August is Caribbean Food Month, on Champagne Twist
August. The 8th month of the year, the summer holidays are in full swing and the temperatures, for once, rival that of many a West Indian island.
So, in celebration of the new month, summer and the relaunch of the Champagne Twist website, August has been designated Caribbean Food Month.
Caribbean Cuisine despite its popularity amongst holidaymakers, has been omitted from the fashionable culinary radar in the UK. Elements have on occasion had it’s 15 minutes of fame, such as ‘Jerk Chicken’, ‘Jerk Pork’ and ‘Jerk just about everything else’, but it hardly matches the success of other culinary greats such as Italian, Chinese, Japanese or Indian food.
When attempts have been made to delve into the genre of Caribbean food, the results have been misleading at best. Adding coconut or pineapple to fish and chips doesn’t make a dish traditional West Indian fare. Nor does eating rice and peas with everything constitute Caribbean style.
So in an attempt to put this right, over the next few weeks there will be new recipes, product reviews and a few surprises, in celebration of this undervalued cuisine.
All starting from tomorrow, here on Champagne Twist.
Hope you are all well this on March chilly day. Spring is around the corner, so I thought it would be a good time to post a video about some of the culinary treats to look forward to when the weather finally warms up.
The Beast from the East may be making a snowy return, but that shouldn’t stop you from looking forward to the super hot summer weather* and the delicious foodie treats that will be heading their merry way to an eatery near you.
*May not be strictly true, but we can dream.
As diners steer more and more from alcoholic drinks and seek healthier alternatives to sugar-laden soft drinks, mocktails are fast becoming the trendsetter in the drinks industry. Using colourful and unusual fruits and vegetables as the base, drinks are set to be not only healthy but fun too.
2 Caribbean cuisine.
There are been so many dawns and false starts with this culinary masterpiece, but 2018 is set to be the year, finally, for West Indian food and drink. This oft-overlooked cuisine is making a mark this year as the food to look out for. And it’s not all coconut-based either.
Yes, of course, I was going to add this one, it’s my favourite after all. But tea as we know it is going to have a serious makeover in 2018 and not before time too. Herbal teas, fruit tea and even iced tea will all be on trend this summer.
4 Plant-based food.
The trend for Vegan and Vegetarian food shows no sign of abating, as increasing numbers are seeking alternatives to meat-based diets. Who would have thought 10 years ago that beige food would be referred to meat pie!
5 Floral flavours.
Elderflower, lavender, rose, chive blossoms, violet, hibiscus and pansy. Prepare to see these floral favourites and more, everywhere, from cakes to teas, from cocktails to salads.
The creamy textured chocolate ganache is smooth, flavourful, with just the right level of sweetness.
Provided in their own sealed off selection to help keep their crisp, crunchy freshness, the chopped caramelised roasted hazelnuts are a perfect match for this pudding.
Of all the 3 puddings, I think the Cocoa Loco is my flavourite. Zingy Thingy for me could have benefitted with a little more lemon zest, and the Mango Fandango could have done with a little more vanilla bean seeds. But the Cocoa Loco was simply perfect – lovely, rich chocolate flavour, creamy smooth texture and the delicious nutty crunch from the hazelnuts. The added bonus that such a luxurious dessert is gluten, dairy, soya and egg free – only plant based ingredients are included in these desserts.
These puddings represent clear examples that you don’t have to miss out if your diet has exclusions. Nor do you need high amounts of sugar, salt or high fat ingredients to produce a delicious dessert.
I have mentioned the packaging before, and again state that I’m very impressed that such minimum packaging has been used to great effect. I’m also pleased to say that I have now found a home for all 3 of the pots in my sewing kit. I’m sure you could easily find a use for your DIY and crafting storage.
Freaks of Nature have a new fan, and I will be following their progress as they develop new products. If these 3 are anything to go by, the future will be very bright for them, and delicious and healthier for me!
Disclaimer: I was gifted 3 different items from Freaks of Nature, which I have decided to review. This post is not sponsored and I have not been remunerated in any way. The opinions featured are my own.
Now that we’re deep into summer, the lavender plants are yielding their flowers in a glorious hue of blues and purples. Try to save the essence of summer, by preserving the flower heads for use in the cold winter months to come.
Lavender sugar is surprisingly versatile but expensive to purchase. The last time I checked, Waitrose sold small jars for £5 each. Yet it is so easy to make yourself, and if you grow lavender, it costs next to nothing. Try this simple recipe and save yourself some time and money.
Lavender Sugar – recipe
1 tbsp Lavender flowers – dried food grade
500g Golden Caster Sugar – you can use white caster sugar if you prefer
You will also need a lidded jar, large enough to contain the sugar.
Add the lavender and sugar in the jar. Secure the lid and shake until well combined.
Store in a cool, dark and dry place. Leave for at least a week before use.
For a gift idea, you can decorate the jar with a gift tag and ribbon.
It took me a while to get my mits on these, and nearly resorted to ordering a crate direct from Pip and Nuts online store. But then they sold out … argh!!!!
But thanks to Ocado, who currently have the butter on special offer, I scooped up 3 of the the beauties.
The Pip & Nut Limited Edition Chocolate, Coconut and Hazelnut butter. The very sound of it is delicious. But sadly the name is better than reality.
There have been a couple of disappointments – 1 being that the jar size is now a smaller 225g reduced from 250g, which is a bit sneaky. The offer price at £3.19 is high, making the RRP at £3.99 pretty pricy, especially as other butters in the range are around the £2 mark.
Taste wise, it’s not bad. I can’t eat this by the spoonful – believe me, I tried – as the coconut flavour is a little too prominent for me and contributes to an odd ‘fatty’ aftertaste. But on toast, it is delicious. The butter has a good consistency and is great melted as a sauce for fresh fruit, pancakes or breakfast cereals. I had planned to use the butter as a baking ingredient. Due to it’s cost and reduced size however, I can’t justify using 2 jars for a 1 cake. Why, oh why did they make the jars smaller?
I did try mixing a teaspoon of the butter with 2 heaped tablespoons of coconut yogurt. I added a few black raspberries harvested from the garden, and made a quick pudding. I later added a teaspoon of caramel sauce, as it helped to cut down the fatty aftertaste from the coconut butter.
As a treat, this is fab, I particularly like the fact that there is no trace of palm oil, which is where Nutella fails. The difference however is that I can easily eat Nutella by the spoonful, and at £5 for a 1kg jar, it is more economical.
Overall, I’m glad I got my 3 jars and am happy to use this product, sparingly. Unfortunately the search for a healthier, viable sub for Nutella continues.
Edit – 23rd July
With regret, I’m going to have to take off another 2 points. I tried another jar of this butter and found that it tasted over salty. There’s no justification for salt in this product that I can think of, let alone in such high amounts.
I decided to try baking with it, and sadly with a too high levels of coconut oil coupled with hardly any chocolate or hazelnut flavour, the chocolate brownie I baked came out tasting mostly of salt and poor quality coconut oil. Bitterly disappointed with what should have been the perfect blend of 3 of my favourite flavours.