Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Pumpkin muffins & pumpkin spice lattes

It's well and truly autumn now, the temperature has dropped and so have the leaves, and the weather is on the verge of being truly miserable. But first comes Halloween and whether you begrudgingly open the door to trick or treaters, or get dressed up to the nines in fancy dress, I think these pumpkin muffins will get you into the spirit.

And the perfect accompaniment to these pumpkin muffins is a pumpkin spice latte. #PSL is all I can think about at the moment as Starbucks eases us into autumn with its  sickly sweet coffee treat. I decided to have a go at creating my own with surprisingly good results.

Firstly for both of these recipes you need to get your hands on a tin of Libby's pumpkin purée. I found it eventually in in Waitrose for £2 a tin, and one will be plenty to make a batch of muffins and 2-3 lattes.

Pumpkin muffins - makes around 15 mini muffins

Line cupcake trays with cases and preheat oven to 190 Degrees Celsius.

Melt 150g butter in the microwave and allow to cool.

Mix the dry ingredients (270g flour, 2tsps baking powder, 100g caster sugar, 60g brown sugar, 4tsps chai drinking powder, 2tsps cinnamon, 1/4 nutmeg grated) thoroughly in a bowl. Stir in the cooled melted butter, 60ml milk, 2 beaten eggs, and 3 + 1/2 tbsp pumpkin purée.

Vanilla or plain chai powdered drink works well in these

Add the pumpkin puree to the muffin mixture

Consistency of the muffin mixture

Spoon into the muffin cases and sprinkle with oats or seeds (pumpkin seeds if possible, unlike me!)

Bake for 30mins and leave to cool on a wire rack.

Pumpkin spice lattes - makes two

For the #PSL take 2 tbsp pumpkin purée and 2 + 1/2 tbsp of brown sugar and heat in a saucepan, whisking thoroughly. After a couple of minutes, add 3 tsp vanilla essence and 3 tsp cinnamon syrup. Heat for two minutes - you might start to smell burning, at this point I panicked thinking I'd caught my sleeve on the flame, but I think it was the sugar catching - after taking off the heat it was fine.

Heat 2 mugs worth of milk in a clean pan on the stove and while it's gently warming, make up 2 espressos as you normally would in two mugs. Once the milk has come to the boil add the spiced pumpkin mixture and whisk. Take off the heat and grate in half a nutmeg. Add to the espressos and stir.

This is the consistency of the reduced spiced pumpkin mixture before whisking into milk

TIP: #PSL - if you fancy a nice end to the day, but don't fancy the caffeine, this also makes a tasty milk drink, just omit the coffee. 

Thank goodness for nutmeg

If you like the look of these, why don't you try my autumnal apple and blackberry muffins as well?

Enjoy x 

Sunday, 26 October 2014

Breakfast at Mel's Drive-in Diner, San Francisco

I feel cheated if I don't visit a traditional diner while out I America. That said Mel's Drive-In in San Francisco is clearly geared up to the tourists with its '50s/'60s theme smacking you in the face as you walk through the door like an old fashioned commercial with a dancing, talking hotdog. But I just couldn't resist an all-American start to the day of buttermilk pancakes.

Right in the centre of the financial district in San Francisco (and luckily right around the corner from the conference I was covering), Mel's lights up the street with its fluorescent lighting, jukebox at the threshold and pristine white interior.

Breakfast is a busy time of day for Mel’s, and expect brisk service rather than an American welcome from your waiter who is probably trying to please the other 100 people in the diner at the same time. While it was heaving, there was no 40 minute waiting time like you get in London and my colleague and I were sat almost straight away making our order of juices, buttermilk pancakes and a side of bacon.

They were - unsurprisingly since I was in the USA- monumental in size. Three giant fluffy pancakes the size of my head sat in front of me with a slice of orange and a sprig of parsley. I had a small jug of maple syrup, and then there was the bacon - four slices (we shared, remember?) of perfectly crisp rashers tantalising my taste buds - why can't I ever make bacon like that? Just so good and so American.

Expect to see traditional milkshakes going past, and with a juke box at each booth, I was expecting the cast of grease to pop up from behind the counter bursting into a rendition of Beauty School Drop Out.

So touristy, so amazingly American. I could hardly control my excitement. And if you happen to be passing for lunch or dinner, I can also recommend Mel's chilli, which I had a few days later slathered over a hot dog and coated in onions and luminous cheese – I’m pretty sure I put on about a stone and a half purely from this establishment! Well worth a visit.

Yes this is a hotdog! Or chillidog! #hotdog #americanfood #chillidog #chillie #mels #melsdrivein #melssanfran #sanfran #sanfrancisco #sanfranciscofood #foodie #foodpic #foodgasm #foodporn

Mel's Drive-in
801 Mission Street, San Francisco, 94103, USA

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Breakfast at Pork Store Cafe, San Francisco

The Pork Store Cafe is in Haights-Ashbury, an area of San Francisco which was traditionally the hippy district, but now an expensive part of town to live, giving off a vibe similar to that of London's Soho. But its hippy roots are still clear with plenty of psychedelic graffiti, thrift shops and independent cafes. 

Today, apparently the hippies have turned into hipsters, but unless they dress differently than the ones in Britain, I didn't see any because everyone else looked very normal - or maybe the hipsters were sensibly still in bed at the ungodly hour I went to have my breakfast.

Not quite American diner not quite cafe, The Pork Store is slightly rough around the edges with charm from its chipped matte pink door frames, pig characters and grease clinging to the walls above the open kitchen... Honestly, keep reading. I know I'm not painting a great picture.

After a recommendation from Google, I entered the pint-sized venue and sat at the bar overlooking three chefs who were lighting the grill, and I admired the lines of framed posters, all of which were old adverts for the Haight-Ashbury Street fairs from the 80s and 90s - clearly a very psychedelic affair in its day.

Aided by my jetlag, I arrived at opening on a Sunday - 8am - and the place was soon packed, with queues of locals keen to start their days with a hearty meal.

The menu was extensive, with all of the usual American oddities that I didn't understand - pork chops for breakfast? Gravy? And what the heck are biscuits?

Apparently, biscuits are like a scone, and I soon found out they were very soft, half scone-half floury bread roll. And of course my two rather large biscuits accompanied a goliath sized breakfast of 'eggs in a tasty nest’ ($9.95). I thought the basket would be the hash brown, but this was two fried eggs laying on top a mix of crispy potato, bell peppers, tomatoes, garlic, salty bacon lardons, stringy cheese and a lot of fried onions. Less nest, more sea of savoury goodness.

I must say it wasn't the easiest thing to eat as it had no structure, and the scone - I mean biscuit - fell apart so beautifully it was a bit tricky to mop up the golden runny egg yolk, never mind it's ‘nest’. Maybe a touch too much onion for me (I went straight to buy gum afterwards), but a great way to start the day before a hike around the Golden Gate Park, which incidental is only a stone's throw away.

While I tried to finish my food, I watched a conveyer belt of fried food go by, monumental pancakes, golden hash browns, and eggs of all shapes and sizes. And I couldn’t get over the efficiency and ease of slipping two fried eggs the size of my head onto a plate of hash browns - it was mesmerising.

Keeping my eyes peeled, I noticed the girl next to me who had clearly got the tip about the Pork Store because she looked even more like a tourist than me. She had the French toast which while looked average with a scattering of fruit, smelt amazing, I couldn't help but stare.

Meanwhile a little further down the bar, a local woman actually ordered the speciality – TWO pork chops! When anyone ordered a pork chop and the waitress would shout "pork chop" to the chefs across the café, and that was the only noise in the café apart from the sizzle of the grill and a low rumble of hungover Haighters - the pork shop speaks for itself. It is what it is.

When her Pork Store Special arrived, it was simply two slabs of meat next to two fried eggs laid on what I think was hash browns, sitting next to a bowl of grits (ground-corn porridge-like dish) and biscuits - a ridiculous amount of food even by my standards. I was so intrigued by the pork chop but my jet lagged British tummy couldn't quite literally stomach it.

A place like this just wouldn't exist in the UK, and I'm kind of glad. You can't get much more American or local, and while places like the Breakfast Club in Soho and Brighton’s New Club try very hard, they fail purely by trying to be something they're not... Not to mention the true American portion sizes!

And don't be put off by the grease on the walls, it only adds to its character, I promise.

Here are more snaps of my trip to Haight-Ashbury, San Francisco:

#haightashbury #sanfran #sanfrancisco #adventures #travel #streetart #america

Wish I could do my food shop at a place like this! Amazing #haightmarket #foodie #sanfran #sanfrancisco #sanfranciscofood #weeklyshop #freshfood #naturalfood #goodforyou

Friday, 17 October 2014

One for the weekend – spinach and goat's cheese croissant

Spinach and goat's cheese croissants are another one of my favourite weekend breakfasts. This simple one-pan recipe makes for a tasty savoury croissant breakfast.

These spinach and goat's cheese croissants are actually a great alternative to smoked salmon for a Christmas morning breakfast – they’re fairly simple, not too heavy and quite impressive to serve to guests. But it’s far too early to mention the ‘C’-word, apologies - this breakfast does in fact work any time of the year.

I usually like to make mine with miniature croissants, but my local shops didn’t have any when I went to make this recipe the other weekend. I think I prefer them small just because it’s a little more delicate to eat and less likely to fall apart.

Recipe: Makes enough for a brunch of two large croissants or six mini croissants

Turn your oven on to 150 degrees celsius, slice your croissants in half and leave to the side.

Fry off a finely sliced shallot in butter, once translucent add three quarters of a large bag of spinach and stir until wilted. Then stir in a log of goat's cheese (around 300g) and leave to melt down.

Give it another stir to combine and then spoon onto one half of your croissants. 

Put the second half back on top and pop in the oven for 5-10 minutes until the croissant is heated through and serve immediately. 

Enjoy x

Monday, 13 October 2014

Mug of the Month - a spot of tea at the Japanese Tea Garden, San Francisco

This month I've been lucky enough to have spent almost a week in San Francisco covering a conference. Work hard, play hard is the key to conference season as a journalist, but I managed to grab a couple of hours peace one morning when I visited the Japanese Tea Garden in San Franicsco's beautiful Golden Gate Park.

Pay $8 and you can wander around the tranquil and meticulously designed gardens full of bonsai trees, cherry blossom, koi carps and one very funky Buddha.

After a peaceful stroll around the garden I sat in the little cafe and ordered a jasmine tea which came in a gorgeous blue and salmon Japanese tea cup. I'd spent the evening beforehand eating my way through a inordinate amount of sushi and gyoza so the cleansing jasmine went down a treat.

A quick visit to the gift shop on my way out and I had to prise myself apart from a gorgeous blue and pink flowered tea set by reminding myself that our small London kitchen couldn't possibly take the strain of anymore "novelty" crockery. But I'm still mourning the blue and pink tea set now I'm back in the UK. See, look how pretty:


Friday, 10 October 2014

Autumnal apple and blackberry muffins

Autumn days, when the grass is jewelled,
And the silk inside a chestnut shell.
Jet planes meeting in the air to be refuelled,
All these things I love so well.

Autumn is my favourite season, time to dig out the loose knitted scarfs, snuggle into warm jumpers and chic ankle boots. It's time for golden leaves to fall from the trees and the excuse to indulge in comforting pies and sponge puddings. And these apple and blackberry muffins hit the spot as we start to feel the first chill of the season.

I absolutely dread winter with huge overcoats and the potential for snow, so I try and make the most of October before I decide it’s time to hibernate and barricade the flat from the cold.

These apple and blackberry muffins give you a good excuse to go foraging for the best of British ingredients in the hedgerows. Enjoy with a spiced chai latte after you get back from a brisk Sunday morning walk in the park. Delicious.

Apple and blackberry muffins recipe ( makes 12 muffins)

Pre-heat the oven to 190 degrees celsius and melt 150g of butter in the microwave and leave to cool.

Put 270g of plain flour, 160g of caster sugar and 2 tsp of baking powder in a mixing bowl and stir to combine. Stir in 70ml of milk, two beaten eggs, and the melted butter to the dry mixture.

Lastly, grate in one apple, half the zest of a lemon and a couple of handfuls of blackberries (if extra large, slice in half). Then stir a couple of times to combine.

Spoon into 12 muffins cases and then bake for around 30 minutes. Once cooked, leave to cool on a wire rack.

Enjoy x