Tag Archives: Rachel’s organics

Rachel’s Organic and two kinds of muffin

With the arrival of my Rachel’s Organic parcel and the chance to try their new fat-free range I decide to embark on a muffin making afternoon. You can’t go wrong with muffins. Ok, so it might be defeating the object of buying fat-free, but you can use yogurt in lots more ways than just as an accompaniment to granola, or eaten as it comes from the tub. Muffins are practical and versatile. You can make them sweet or savoury, fill them with cheese, bacon, or any kind of sweet treat from fresh or dried fruit to luscious home-made jam. They make a great breakfast, a healthy lunchbox addition or just the perfect accompaniment to a cup of tea (I love my tea and cake, in all its guises!).

Muffins are also more filling and substantial than a plain old fairy cake. The fact that they are somewhat heavier makes them more akin to bread; a little mini loaf in a cake wrapper. Having said this you do still need to take a bit of care when mixing. A heavy hand produces a rather solid mass of bun, not the light and airy one that you are aiming for.

The other thing about muffins is that they positively demand you add yogurt. It is this that gives them their distinctive less sweet and slightly sharpish, taste.

I used two tubs of Rachel’s Organic yogurt to make two very differently flavoured muffins; natural yogurt with home-made lemon curd in the first batch (al la Hugh Fearnley Whittingstalls recipe) and peach and passionfruit (with one mashed banana) in the second. The former are most popular with Aidan and consumed by the bucket load, but the teen prefers the latter (she hates lemon curd!!)

Hugh FW’s lemon curd muffins (makes about 12):

225g plain flour, 2 teaspoons baking powder, a pinch of Halen Mon seas salt, 100g caster sugar, 1 medium egg, 125ml Rachel’s organic low-fat natural yogurt, 125ml milk, 75g unslated butter (melted), 150g lemon curd.

Line a muffin tin with 12 cases and preheat the oven to 180 degrees C / gas mark 4.

Mix flour, baking powder, salt and caster sugar in a large bowl. Combine the egg, yogurt, milk and melted butter in a jug and pour on to the dry ingredients mixing very lightly until just combined. If you over mix you will get those heavy muffins that you want to avoid. Add the lemon curd a few dollops at a time and marble in to the mixture roughly. Again avoid over stirring.

Spoon the mixture into the paper cases and bake in the oven for about 30 minutes or until golden brown on top. Transfer to a rack to cool and eat, preferably while still warm, but they should keep for a day or two as lunch box essentials for nine-year old boys!

Tropical peach, passionfruit and banana muffins:

Use the same recipe as above but substitute 125g of fat-free peach and passionfruit yogurt for the natural yogurt and a large well mashed banana for the lemon curd. All the other stages remain the same. You could also use the blackcurrant yogurt along with a handful of blueberries, or black currants when in season….or the strawberry and rhubarb with a tablespoon or two of freshly cooked pulped rhubarb (which is now in season)…most importantly once you have that basic recipe to follow, let your imagination run wild, what could go wrong!!

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Stop press: Rachel’s Organic new range of yogurts

On my return from London I was pleasantly surprised to find a delicious delivery of goodies from Rachel’s Organic. My neighbour had mercifully spotted the perishable sticker on the front and kindly opened the box stacking everything neatly in the fridge. Usually on return from a holiday the fridge looks depressing bare, maybe a limp carrot has been left to shrivel at the bottom of the veg drawer and a few half empty jars stand forlornly on the top shelf. This time it was different. On this occasion a pleasingly full fridge greeted us. A whole shelf full to the brim with with Rachel’s products. We had to take everything out just to check what was there!

Along with their new range of fat-free yogurt, they had sent me several packs of creamy rice pudding (which I love heated for 30 seconds in the microwave and topped with a teaspoon of home-made jam, lemon curd or fruit compote. They make the perfect lunch box treat for someone with a sweet tooth, like myself); plus a few tubs of low-fat natural yogurt, four granola pots (which we devoured immediately as we were hungry from the drive home), a special edition four-pack of coconut (two with passionfruit and two with pineapple and banana) and a low-fat apple & elderflower. The three new limited edition fat-free flavours were blackcurrant, strawberry and rhubarb and peach and passionfruit.

I’d not tasted the apple and elderflower before so this was the first large tub that I opened. Sprinkled with a handful of Mornflake Orchard Granola it made the perfect breakfast. The blackcurrant almost disappeared before my eyes as my son decided to test this one out when I wasn’t looking. Sprinkled with Jordans Super Berry Granola he loved it.  I did get a small look in before it went completely.

To be honest I often avoid fat-free varieties of yogurt and produce as I find them a little insubstantial flavour wise. I like something with a little creaminess which is why I would go for a low-fat variety and not totally fat-free. The apple and elderflower, which is from their low-fat range really hit the spot and I loved it. I wasn’t so sure about the fat-free blackcurrant. A creamier yogurt might have offset the sharpness of the blackcurrant I little better so I wasn’t quite sold on this version. In contrast I loved the Strawberry and rhubarb (which was my favourite) and Peach and passionfruit. The more delicate and somewhat sweeter fruits seem to work better with the fat-free yogurt.

This surprise delivery filled me with enthusiasm. Usually after a long drive my desire to stand cooking for ages is understandably diminished, but armed with a fridge full of yogurt, a large chunk of left over lamb (from Easter Sunday dinner) and a garden which had grown with a vengeance (despite the snow) I managed to create a feast!

Leftover spiced lamb paired with a mint and cucumber yogurt dip, lemony couscous with wild garlic and parsley and steamed purple sprouting broccoli (which had gone mad in the garden!).

Lamb: 400g leftover roast lamb chopped in to pieces, 1 large red onion finely chopped, a couple of cloves of garlic finely chopped, tablespoon rapeseed oil, 2 teaspoons of roasted cumin seeds crushed lightly, 2 teaspoons coriander, a pinch of chilli flakes, a tin of chopped tomatoes, quarter of a pint of chicken stock, a dessertspoonful sumac, slat and pepper (and fresh coriander to finish but I didn’t have any).

Cook the onion gently in oil until softening. Add garlic, coriander, cumin and chilli flakes and cook gently to release the lovely aroma. Add tomatoes and stock and cook for a few minutes until bubbling then add the lamb and sumac, salt and pepper. Continue to cook for about 15 minutes while you prepare the rest of the meal.

Couscous: put enough couscous to feed four into a shallow bowl (a mug full should do it depending on how hungry you are), pour over enough boiling vegetable stock (for speed use Kallo organic stock cubes or vegetable bouillon) to cover. Cover the bowl with cling film and leave to stand for about 10 minutes. When you are ready put the couscous in a serving bowl and fluff with a fork. Stir in chopped herbs, a handful of wild garlic finely chopped, salt and pepper, juice of half a lemon and a good glug of olive oil. Steam the broccoli lightly and serve on top (I admit I slightly overdid mine…I was getting tired by this point!)

Yogurt dip: One tub of Rachel’s organic natural yogurt, half a cucumber grated and squeezed to remove as much juice as possible, a pinch of salt and a teaspoon or so of finely chopped mint leaves. Mix together in a serving bowl.

Dinner…yum!

 

 

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Fasoulia, frills and fluffy meringue-a weekend at Bangor Aid music festival in aid of local homelessness charities

Bubbles from Dr. Zigs...Dragon bubbles

I’m sure I always begin my posts with the word phew! Closely followed by the phrase ‘what a hectic weekend’, but this was almost a record-breaking attempt as I asked myself exactly how many activities could fit into one weekend? I thought living in the countryside was meant to be peaceful? but I guess since I grew up in London I’ve just transported city life with me! I have lived here 20 years and I guess I’ve slowed down a bit, but blatently not that much!

As I mentioned in my last update, this weekend was all about the Bangor Aid  music festival where I was selling produce, as well as performing in my other guise as a can can dancer and cooking for one of the bands for good measure!

I spent most of the latter part of the week preparing goods to sell on the Saturday; a family and kid friendly acoustic music day, with lots of activities for the small ones. The brief had been not to clash with the kitchen who were preparing hot food and cakes, so I opted to make a variety of sweet goodies that would appeal to children as well as adults. Treats included fluffy light mini meringues, chocolate macaroons (finally I’ve got it sussed!! This was my first ever succesful attempt), fudge, ginger bread people and about 60 child sized cupcakes!

organic gingerbread people

chocolate macaroons with chocolate ganache filling

On Friday evening, while I was finishing off the preparation and packaging,  I also prepared several pots of food to take to my good friends Adam and Iya’s. Adam had ‘booked’ me at the last-minute to do a small impromptu ‘secret supper’ for Thabani, the group headlining  later, at their home just across the valley. I took the opportunity to experiment a little with some different tastes and flavours that still incorporated local seasonal produce. I opted for a traditional Libyan / Middle Eastern stew called Fasoulia, a dish of beans (haricot, cannellini or fava) cooked with tomato and garlic. There are variations such as Fasoulia Baidha made with lamb, and it was this that I finally settled on. One of the band had asked earlier what I was going to cook and when I told it would be lamb they all laughed. Visiting Wales? well it had to be lamb!

As accompaniments I made a cooling dish of minted yogurt, a salad of feta, oak smoked tomato, cucumber, red onion and parsley, and couscous with lemon, olive oil and lots of fresh herbs. The sauce of tomato, beans and lamb was thick and wholesome, perfect for a cool and drizzly evening and its rich, spicy sauce a real taste bud delight. The band certainly thought so (I’m pretty sure one member had four helpings!!).

Fasoulia:

225g dried haricot or cannellini beans (not soaked over night), 1 large onion, 1k of Welsh neck of lamb (get your butcher to slice it into chops as I did), 150g tin of tomato puree, 3 large garlic cloves chopped, 1 teaspoon of chilli powder or a fresh chilli, or a good pinch of chilli flakes which is what I used, 1 teaspoon of cumin, turmeric, coriander and cinnamon, 1 teaspoon salt.

Wash the beans, drain and put into a large saucepan with 2.15 litres of water and half the roughly chopped onion. Put the pan on a low heat and bring to the boil slowly without covering. Keep on a low heat and cook the beans slowly for 2 hours until partly cooked. I think mine took about an hour and half so test them every now and again. Add the lamb to the pan with the salt and add some more water to cover. Keep simmering slowly for a further hour. In another pan heat the oil and cook the onion gently until tender but don’t brown. Add tomato puree, garlic and spices and cook stirring all the time for about 5 minutes.

At this point check the liquid in the beans, if it seems too watery ladle a little out or if there isn’t enough add a bit more water. Then add one or two ladles full of liquid to the tomato puree before tipping the whole lot back into the pan with the beans and lamb. Cook for another 10 minutes or so until the sauce has thickened. Taste the seasoning adding more salt if necessary and serve.

As soon as the boys were fed sorted I began my own transformation…my second persona of the evening that of a member of the Cheap Frills Can Can troupe. I headed off to join my co-dancers at the venue. It was a great night! Music, dancing and real party vibe. A couple of the band members looked more than bemused to see me again, one minute serving them dinner the next wearing corset and feathers looking like I’d stepped out of a cabaret set!!

Cheap Frills Can Can

Thabani: The band for whom I cooked a special pre-gig supper

Having rolled into bed at about 2.30am gaining little sleep in the process, I was rudely awakened by the teen at 6am getting up for school (yes I know, school on a Saturday is very harsh…but she can’t complain, she’s now off on a climbing holiday with said school in the Rhone Valley!). Forced from my bed more prematurely than anticipated I made use of my time and packed up the car ready for the days next job that of produce stall holder. The weather was changeable, promising first sun, then showers and grey clouds hung ominously over the area. With a variety of indoor and outdoor stages at the Victorian farmyard Hendre Hall (the site for the event) everyone prayed that the day wasn’t a total washout. Of course I was hoping to cover my costs, as well as making enough to give a healthy donation from my sales.

cupcakes and goodies

fudge, meringues, macaroons and gingerbread

My mate Rossi with her Dilys the Sheep brand of Welsh made knitted goods

and more bubbles

The day started slowly and feared I would be eating cupcakes and gingerbread men for the rest of the week, but as the acoustic music kicked off, the sun poked its head occasionally from behind the clouds and rainbow-hued bubbles bobbed and floated on the breeze so sales picked up and by the time I was ready to collapse in a heap at 4pm I had sold everything but a couple of bags of meringues and a bag of macaroons (hidden by the teen so she could take them off to Geneva with her).  It was a good day in all, the kids ran riot chasing giant bubbles around the old farmyard, teens hung out swapping artist wrist bands with each other so they could pinch a free beer from the green room and a whole host of local up and coming talent entertained us including, the fantastic folky Eve Goodman and fifteen year old songstress  Charlotte Starmer, one of my teens best friends. She has just started performing and she’s great.

The whole weekend was a successful whirlwind of frills, feathers and food….hugely busy but great fun and most importantly we raised money for a very worthy cause. Well done and thankyou to Bangor Aid for putting together a packed weekend and of course to all the performers, artists and volunteers who made it happen, I’m glad to have been part of it.

Chocolate macaroons (Nigella Lawson recipe…the only one that works for me!):

250g icing sugar, 25g ground almonds, 25g green and blacks cocoa powder, 4 large egg whites (mine stood out over night…a tip I was given by another ace macaroon maker), 25g castor sugar

Preheat the oven to gas mark 4/180 degrees C. Line baking trays with parchment. Sift together the icing sugar, almonds and cocoa. Whisk the egg whites until almost stiff then sprinkle over the caster sugar and whisk again until very stiff, but not dry. Very gently fold in the dry ingredients. Fit a piping bag with a 1cm plain icing nozzle and fill with the macaroon mixture. Pipe small rounds on to the baking trays. Leave for about 15 minutes so that the rounds form a skin then bake in the oven for about 15 minutes until they are dry on the outside but still chewy inside. remove from the trays and leave on a rack to cool.

For the ganache melt 150g plain chocolate (I use green and blacks generally or Valrhona if I’m feeling rich and posh!) with 90ml or 6 tablespoons of double cream (Rachel’s dairy) and 3 small tablespoons of unsalted butter (Rachel’s organics) in a bain marie (or a bowl over a saucepan of barely simmering water). When the chocolate is just melted whisk everything together off the heat and leave to cool.

When macaroons and ganache are cool spread one macaroon with chocolate and sandwich together with the second. Perfect with a cup of good coffee!


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