Chelsea & Me: Spiced Pumpkin Muffins

Chelsea & Me

Chelsea Winter. Winner of Masterchef NZ in 2012, author of three cookbooks, and my go-to gal when I’m in a recipe funk. At My Table and Everyday Delicious and now her new book, Homemade Happiness, are the most-used and most-recommended cookbooks in my kitchen, so I’m making it my mission to try every recipe.
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I’m not a huge muffin fan, but I do love pumpkin and something about this recipe really caught my eye. I think it was the idea of pumpkin and brown sugar dancing together in the mixture, creating a magical caramel batter with hints of ginger, nutmeg and cloves.

spiced pumpkin muffins

The recipe is very simple and quick, like all good muffin recipes should be. The only lengthy part of the process was chopping and cooking the pumpkin, but once it was simmering away on the stove I was able to get all the other ingredients together and clear up as I went.

spiced pumpkin muffins

But what you really want to know is, “What did they taste like??”, right?

spiced pumpkin muffins

Amazing. Delicious. Sweet. Spicy. Fluffy.

spiced pumpkin muffins

I didn’t tell my kids that they contained pumpkin, and they both scoffed them down; knowing it was the main ingredient, I could taste it, but if I didn’t know….well…I wouldn’t have known. The flavour was subtle, and the cinnamon and Demerara topping was a lovely addition; the soft, fluffy muffin combined with the sweet, crunchy topping was really, really good.

(This recipe can be found in Everyday Delicious.)

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Chelsea & Me: Eggplant Parmigiana

Chelsea & Me

Chelsea Winter. Winner of Masterchef NZ in 2012, author of three cookbooks, and my go-to gal when I’m in a recipe funk. At My Table and Everyday Delicious and now her new book, Homemade Happiness, are the most-used and most-recommended cookbooks in my kitchen, so I’m making it my mission to try every recipe.
~~~~~~~~~

If you’ve been following this blog for a while, you’ll know how much I love eggplant. When I saw that At My Table featured a recipe for one of my favourite dishes, Eggplant Parmigiana, I might have danced around the kitchen with the book clasped to my chest.

I had high expectations, and was prepared for disappointment, but Chelsea’s recipe is a definite winner. The first time I made it, Tall was out for a schmoozy work dinner, and I think I ate the portion that would have been his, as well as my own. The next day, friends came for a play date, and I cringe a little now as I recall that I actually forced them to try it (sorry ladies!).

Eggplant Parmigiana

The chunky, crunchy breadcrumbs on top were in delicious textural contrast to the soft eggplant, and the pinch of chilli flakes lifted an otherwise-ordinary tomato sauce to a soul-soaringly high level. The combination of flavours and textures all works so well to make a really tasty dish that is quite delightful to eat.

The recipe serves four, but as my kids don’t like eggplant (“It’s too mushy!” they cry), I serve this with a big green salad and some crusty bread, and there are enough leftovers for Tall’s lunch the next day, and dinner the next night.

Chelsea & Me: Sticky Date Pudding with Caramel Sauce

Chelsea Winter. Winner of Masterchef NZ in 2012, author of two (nearly three, eeeeeek!) cookbooks, and my go-to gal when I’m in a recipe funk. At My Table and Everyday Delicious are the most-used and most-recommended cookbooks in my kitchen, so I’m making it my mission to try every recipe.

Chelsea & MeWe don’t eat a lot of desserts or puddings; my boys have always been more than happy with fruit and sometimes yoghurt as their afters. Sometimes, however, the mood strikes me and I decide it’s time we finished our meal with something sweetly delicious.

To be honest, I didn’t think my boys were going to like these wee puds. To be even more honest, I didn’t think I was going to like them either.

Four virtually empty bowls proved me wrong.

These sticky date puds were incredibly simple to make, and took hardly any time to cook – I had them in the oven while we ate our dinner, then whisked up the caramel sauce while my boys were having a quick play. The hint of cinnamon in the pudding is perfect, and the dates were little hits of melty, gooey goodness.

sticky date puddingI think my husband was the only one who finished his pudding (the boys went halves) as it is a very sweet combination; a cool scoop of vanilla ice cream on the side provided a nice balance and cut through the sweetness.

If you are a Sticky Date Pudding fan, or have never given it a go, this is definitely a recipe you should try.

Chelsea & Me: Fresh Mint & Chocolate Slice

Chelsea Winter. Winner of Masterchef NZ in 2012, author of two (nearly three, eeeeeek!) cookbooks, and my go-to gal when I’m in a recipe funk. At My Table and Everyday Delicious are the most-used and most-recommended cookbooks in my kitchen, so I’m making it my mission to try every recipe.

Chelsea & MeWhen we moved into our new house two years ago, I was excited about having a bigger vegetable garden. The previous owners were keen gardeners, but as with most people who put their houses on the market, they’d let the vege patch go a little. As a result, the mint was flourishing. And by flourishing, I mean it was starting to take over like a scene from The Day of the Triffids.

Over the past two summers, we spent a lot of time eradicating it from the vege garden, and suddenly…we had no mint. No mint AT ALL. My mum gave me a mint root to plant in a pot (“Contain it!” she said. “Contain it goooood.”), aaaaand I forgot about it for a few weeks. When I found that dry, shrivelled root outside one day, I decided to shove it in some potting mix anyway, and wouldn’t you know, we now have a lovely pot of fresh mint in the front yard.

fresh mint & chocolate slice - chelsea winter fresh mint & chocolate slice - chelsea winter We’ve been making mojitos, adding it to fizzy water with slices of lemon and lime, and making Fresh Mint & Chocolate Slice.

Oh my. This slice is amazing. The biscuity base is chocolately but not too sweet. The mint cream is rather sweet, but offset by the inclusion of chopped fresh mint leaves. The dark chocolate icing…well…I don’t think you need me to wax lyrical about that, do you??

fresh mint & chocolate slice - chelsea winterThis recipe can be found in Everyday Delicious, but it’s also online here. If you have mint taking over your garden or politely keeping to itself in a pot, you should make this slice. It’s supposed to keep for up to a week in the fridge, but I doubt it will last that long!

(Chopping board from Needle and Nail)

Chelsea & Me: Pizza

Chelsea Winter. Winner of Masterchef NZ in 2012, author of two (nearly three, eeeeeek!) cookbooks, and my go-to gal when I’m in a recipe funk. At My Table and Everyday Delicious are the most-used and most-recommended cookbooks in my kitchen, so I’m making it my mission to try every recipe.

Chelsea & MeThere’s something about making pizza dough that I find both satisfying and frustrating. I love that it is so easy to create your own bases on the cheap, but I really don’t enjoy the kneading. However, I’ve tried many no-knead versions and they just don’t have that same texture as a base that’s been pummeled massaged gently for a good ten minutes.

Pizza Dough - Chelsea Winter The pizza dough recipe in At My Table is very easy and relatively quick to make – the mixture rises quite quickly in a warm environment, and even though there’s still a lot of kneading involved, it’s kinda worth it in the end. The recipe makes a lot of dough, but it freezes really well, so I often make the full batch, pop one or two portions in the freezer, and when there are enough in there for a meal, out they come, almost as good as fresh.

The pizza sauce recipe is pretty standard; I switch between using it, plain tomato paste, or my own pizza sauce recipe, depending on what kind of pizzas we’re having, and how much time I have to spare.

Chelsea offers seven topping recipes, and we’ve tried five of them:

Chilli, olive and tomato – enjoyed by the adults, not by the children. They were wary of the delicious, salty wee anchovies, and the slices of tomato.

Greek lamb – this cheese-lee baby was really tasty, and even though my boys picked off the tomato, they liked the flavour of the lamb. I’ve also tried it with the addition of crumbled feta (pictured on the slightly over-cooked pizza below) which adds an extra sharpness that I liked but was a definite no-no for my babies.

Greek Lamb Pizza - Chelsea WinterPrawn, garlic and aioli – YUM. We are a prawn-loving family, and this simple pizza is now one of our favourites. Occasionally I’ll leave the cheese off my portion, but the boys (all three of ’em) prefer it to have a little hint of stretchy mozzarella.

Proscuitto, mozzarella and basil – given the price of proscuitto and fresh mozzarella, I’ve only made this once for a date-night-in dinner. The flavours were so good – the saltiness of the proscuitto was tempered by the fresh mozzarella and the freshness of the basil. I like pizzas where there are toppings added after cooking, as it keeps things texturally interesting and flavours high.

Salmon, caper and cream cheese – another divine seafood offering, using parmesan cheese. The addition of fresh rocket and lemon juice before serving cuts through the richness of the salmon and cream cheese, and we love capers. I always add a little sprinkling of dried dill, simply because I love it, and it works really well with this flavour combination.

Salmon, Caper and Cream Cheese Pizza - Chelsea WinterI don’t bother using any other pizza dough recipe now (the grease marks on the page are testament to that fact!), and it’s always nice to have suggestions for toppings when the motivation to create something that looks and tastes pretty is low.

Chelsea & Me: Chicken Cacciatore

Chelsea Winter. Winner of Masterchef NZ in 2012, author of two (nearly three, eeeeeek!) cookbooks, and my go-to gal when I’m in a recipe funk. At My Table and Everyday Delicious are the most-used and most-recommended cookbooks in my kitchen, so I’m making it my mission to try every recipe.

Chelsea & MeChicken Cacciatore has always been a dish I’ve enjoyed, but one I’ve never been able to fully master. The balance of flavours has always been slightly askew, and while I’ve managed to create a tasty version, there’s just been something missing. Most of the recipes I’ve tried have used chicken drumsticks, which are a bit tricky to eat when smothered in a rich tomato sauce.

Enter Chelsea’s Chicken Cacciatore. The ingredients are uncomplicated and few, and the method couldn’t be simpler. Brown chicken breasts? I can do that. Throw a few sauce ingredients into a pan to simmer and thicken? Yep. Add a few more bits and pieces to create that balance I’ve been searching for? Done!

The first time I made this recipe, the whole chicken breasts took a little longer to cook through than I expected, but we all went back for seconds and basically licked our plates clean. The second time I made it, I started cooking earlier and yep, same as before – clean plates.

Chicken Cacciatore - Chelsea WinterI’ve also made it using chopped chicken breasts, in an effort to make it s-t-r-e-t-c-h a little further – the cooking time is drastically reduced this way. I’ve made it without capers, and the flavour wasn’t quite right, but it was still very tasty. I chargrill fresh peppers – throw quarters under the grill at the same time as you brown the chicken, then pop them in a bowl, cover with cling film and leave the skins to basically sweat loose.

It was easy to make a gluten free version for a kindy teacher and her family following surgery, and it is already dairy free which is perfect for me. It’s a healthy dish, and a great meal for a family – I normally use half the number of chicken breasts (unless they are tiiiiiiny), and there is enough to feed my family of four, with plenty of leftovers for Tall’s lunch.

This is one well-spattered page in At My Table, and a dish I keep returning to when I’m feeling uninspired.

Chelsea & Me: Eggs Benedict

Chelsea Winter. Winner of Masterchef NZ in 2012, author of two (nearly three, eeeeeek!) cookbooks, and my go-to gal when I’m in a recipe funk. At My Table and Everyday Delicious are the most-used and most-recommended cookbooks in my kitchen, so I’m making it my mission to try every recipe.

Chelsea & MeOnce upon a time, in a small flat in St Albans, England, my husband made the most amazing hollandaise sauce from scratch, all by himself. He used every pot, pan and utensil in that small galley kitchen, but the resulting sauce was really good. Thinking to myself, “How hard can it be?”, I tried to reproduce his efforts one day, and it was rubbish. The mixture curdled and split, and no matter how may times I tried again, I just couldn’t get it right.

Fast forward six or so years, and I decided to try again. There was a recipe for Eggs Benedict in my then-new Chelsea Winter cookbook, and it didn’t look so hard. One Sunday lunchtime, when husband was away and my parents were coming for lunch, I assembled everything I needed, ensure the children were distracted by their grandparents and set to work.

I doubled the recipe, as the original is for two servings, and took my time. I made sure the pan of simmering water under the egg and butter mixture was barely simmering, and I whisked until my arm nearly fell off. I timed the eggs, and toasted the muffins to perfection, and when I dished it up, I may have danced a happy dance right there in the kitchen.

Eggs Benedict - Chelsea WinterIt was good. So good. Lip-smackingly, plate-licklingly good. The hollandaise was perfectly lemony, and the yolks were oozy and delicious. When husband returned home, I couldn’t wait to tell him about the dish, and with a cheeky glint in his eye, he said, “You’re going to have to prove it.”

Eggs Benedict - Chelsea WinterAnd prove it, I have. About twice a month, on a Sunday, I make us Eggs Benedict for breakfast. I’ve failed at the sauce just once, and that was when I stuck to the quantities in the recipe. It seems I am rubbish at making holldandaise that serves two, but an expert at making hollandaise that, in theory, serves four. Which it doesn’t. I don’t need to look up the recipe anymore; it’s etched into my brain so strongly that it’s second nature now. Thanks to Chelsea, I think I can say that I am now a bit of a hollandaise master.