Carrot cupcakes with lemon soft cheese icing

Come here…

Come closer, shhhhhhh, no one can hear us, I’m going to tell you a secret… I’m going to tell you how I make the softest moistest most delicious carrot cupcakes. It’s a secret, you must keep it to yourself. I’m going to tell you everything but you must promise not to repeat it to anyone, it will be our secret. Shhhhhhhhh…..

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Cupcakes1

INGREDIENTS

For 12 cupcakes

  • 175 grams of brown muscovado sugar
  • 100 grams of wholemeal self-raising flour
  • 100 grams of self-raising flour
  • 1 tsp of bicarbonate of soda
  • 2 tsp of mixed spice
  • the zest of 1 orange
  • 2 free-range eggs
  • 150 ml of sunflower oil
  • 200 grams of carrots, grated
  • sprinkles, etc. to decorate to taste
  • 50-100 grams of ground almonds (not powdered; and chunky rather than fine)
  • 50-80 grams of chopped pecans

For the icing

  • 50 grams of butter, at room temperature, cut into small cubes
  • 150 grams of full-fat soft cheese
  • 50 grams of icing sugar
  • 1 tsp of vanilla extract
  • the zest of 1/2 lemon

Carrots

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METHOD

  • Pre-heat your oven to gas mark 5 (190C). Line a cupcake baking tin with paper cases.
  • In a large mixing bowl combine the flours, sugar, bicarbonate of soda, mixed spice, and orange zest.
  • Add the eggs and sunflower oil and mix well until all combined.
  • Grate your carrots and squeeze out most of the juices (90%), then add to the bowl. Mix well and leave to rest for 5 minutes, allow the carrots to release all their moisture.
  • Finally, add the chopped nuts, adjusting the quantity depending on the texture and wetness of your mix. You want it to be rather wet but thick enough so that it sticks on the back of a spoon.
  • Pour the mix into the baking tin, up to 2 third up the paper case (Note: don’t over-fill the cases, or the cupcakes will not rise)
  • Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until a skewer comes out dry. 
  • When baked, take the cupcakes out of the baking tin (or they will keep cooking) and leave on a cooling rack.
  • In the meantime, place the butter cubes in a clean mixing bowl and, using a sharp knife, shred it into pieces as small as possible.
  • Add the soft cheese to the butter and whisk until smooth. You can pour a little bit of the soft cheese water if it helps with the whisking.
  • Add the icing sugar, lemon zest and vanilla extract and whisk until smooth and creamy.
  • Once they’re completely cooled down, ice your cupcakes. I like the icing to be thick and generous, as it balances well against the spices of the cake.
  • If there is any icing left, stick your finger in that bowl and eat it before someone else does.

There you have it. Guaranteed to please everyone; and not too long nor messy as cupcakes can sometimes be. Hope you enjoy it and, remember, this is just between you and me…

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Red lentil soup with curry roasted cauliflower topping

I know… I’m bad, bad, bad. I don’t bake anymore. I haven’t baked in months. I just don’t have time… I need to make time. I am going to make time. Don’t go just yet, I will bake again! Now, what’s that for a New Year’s resolution?

After all the food in the Christmas and New Year festive season, we are trying to be good and eat healthy food. We’re nowhere close to a proper detox (I had a glass of wine no later than last night), but we’re not eating meat and have loads of soups. But, as you may know if you’re trying to be healthy too, soups can quickly become boring. I mean, I love a bowl of stilton & broccoli soup; peas & ham; carrot & coriander; etc. but.. you know… after a while I need something a little more tasty, with a little more “hoompf” like they say on telly.

Yesterday I was therefore looking for a tasty-looking but healthy soup to make. And I came across a recipe of red lentil lemon soup by chefmo73 at http://mobitesfood.com/ Red lentils, cumin, chili, now that’s what I’m talking about! It became obvious that this was going to be last night’s dinner.

I was also looking for something else to serve along the soup (notably because we have 2 boys at home and a big chocolate stash; and if I want the latter to survive the night, I need to ensure the boys are full). And this is when I came across a second gem: So Hungry I Could Blog‘s recipe for curry roasted cauliflower.

I put the two recipes together, and this is how this red lentil soup with curry roasted cauliflower topping was born. Tadam! This is truly the perfect January dinner: tasty, warm and hearty, no meat (well, if you don’t count in the chicken stock), cheap ingredients, incredibly easy.

Red lentil soup

Here’s how to proceed.

Curry roasted cauliflower topping (serves 4)

  • 1 cauliflower cut into bite-size florets
  • 3 tbsp of olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp of lemon zest
  • 1 tbsp of curry powder
  • 2 cloves of garlic crushed
  • 1/2 tsp of turmeric
  • salt and black pepper

In a bowl, mix together the olive oil, lemon zest, crushed garlic, spices, salt and pepper. Add the cauliflower florets and toss so that it os well-coated in the curry mixture. Spread the florets on a baking dish and roast at 375c (gas mark 5) for about 1 hour (or when the cauliflower have crisped up and the smell in your house is to die for). Reserve on kitchen paper to drain any remaining oil.

Curry roasted cauliflowers

Spicy red lentil soup (serves 4-5)

  • 3 tbsp of olive oil
  • 1 white onion, chopped roughly
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 tbsp of tomato paste
  • 1 tsp of ground cumin
  • 1/4 tsp of salt
  • 1/4 tsp of black pepper
  • Ground chili powder to taste
  • 1 litre of chicken or vegetable stock
  • 1 cup of red lentils (I did half red lentils and half green lentils, only because I didn’t have enough red lentils. It was still delicious, but I’m guessing the colour wasn’t as attractive as 100% red lentils would have been.)
  • 2 carrots, peeled and diced roughly
  • The juice of 1/2 lemon

In a stock pot, heat the olive oil and cook the onion and garlic until soft and golden. Stir in the tomato paste, cumin, salt, pepper and chili powder and sauté for 2 minutes longer.

Add the stock with an extra 2 cups of water, the lentils and the chopped carrots. Bring to a boil, then turn the heat to medium-low and simmer until the lentils are soft (about 40 minutes). Taste and adjust seasoning.

Using an immersion blender, partly purée the soup: you want the lentils to be smooth, but to keep some chunks of carrots. Stir in the lemon juice.

Serve the soup drizzled with a little olive oil and topped with the curry roasted cauliflower. I guarantee that if you make that soup once, you will be making it again.