Tuesday, 17 January 2012
What inspires you?
My tastes have changed over time. I stumbled upon 101 Cookbooks when I first started blogging. I (insert collective gasp) wasn't too sure about it and clicked away - I guess I thought it was a bit lacking on the refined sugar/butter/cake front.
It's a bit like Harry Potter. I started reading the Philosopher's Stone in the summer of '99, got a chapter or two in and gave up (not something I often do). Fast forward a few years and I was a fully fledged Harry Potter fan (I may or may not have spent a sizeable proportion of my early teens on HP websites, hotly debating Harry's future love life).
Nowadays I find myself drawn to different blogs, to different books. I'm slowly changing the foods I choose to make - not out of recognition, but as my skills and knowledge develop and as I explore, I guess I'm unconsciously making slightly different choices. For instance, at the moment I'm particularly drawn to dishes with a history, tradition or story.
I find inspiration in lots of places - to me it's a general creative feeling that touches everything I do, not only what ends up in my oven. I obviously love food blogs (my absolute favourites are on my blogroll on the sidebar) but things like art, literature, light, scenery, photographs (see Brian Ferry) and flowers (see Amy Merrick) find their way in too. There are loads of amazing and slightly different magazines and journals out there - instead of my old Good Food and delicious, I now read Gastronomica, Remedy and Fire & Knives. I finally bit the bullet and bought the second issue of Kinfolk recently - it's absolutely stunning, my jaw was on the floor. Old cookbooks, my grandma's cookbooks, return wonderful recipes.
Of course, a new cookbook can revitalize your ideas too - I finally bought Heidi's Super Natural Every Day to give to my mum for Christmas (I got my copy through amazon from the US but it's officially released here in March). This was one the best things we tried - it's wonderfully filling and feels healthy yet sweet. Perfect for a special weekend breakfast where you want something a bit more substantial than waffles/pancakes etc.
I made this again yesterday with pears in the bottom instead of bananas which worked really well. The frozen fruit mix I used this time had strawberries which was a bit odd (my usual one is raspberries, blackberries, redcurrants & blackcurrants) so perhaps avoid them if you share my aversion to cooked strawberries. I'd like to try substituting coconut milk too.
I also browned the butter. I can't help myself. Time passes but I'm still hopelessly addicted - and inspired - by its nutty tones.
(adapted from Heidi Swanson's Super Natural Every Day)
200g porridge oats (rolled)
60g walnuts, toasted*
60g soft brown sugar (or maple syrup)
1 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp fine sea salt
2 tsp vanilla paste (or extract)
2 bananas in thick slices*
approx 150g mixed frozen summer berries*
maple syrup, to serve
Preheat the oven to 190C/370F. Butter a 20cm square baking dish. Melt the butter in a small pan then keep heating - it will foam up and then die down - take off the heat when it is filled with brown flecks and smelling gloriously nutty. Put aside to cool a little.
Mix the oats, 1/2 the nuts, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon and salt in a bowl. In another bowl whisk the milk, egg, 1/2 the butter and vanilla together. Arrange the banana slices on the bottom of the dish and sprinkle about 2/3 of the berries over the bottom of the dish. Tip the oat mixture over the top and spread it out over the berries. Drizzle the milk mixture over the top, making sure all the oats are wet. Thwack on the counter to evenly distribute it. Scatter the rest of the nuts and berries over the top.
Bake in the oven for 35-45 minutes until it is set and golden. Drizzle the rest of the brown butter (you may have to warm it a little) over the top and serve with maple syrup (and possibly some cream).
* You could swap up the nuts and fruits as you like or according to season. I always have some frozen summer berries in the freezer - they worked perfectly and didn't need to be defrosted. I was skeptical about walnuts but they actually worked really well.