banana almond muffin pudding

The heart wants what it wants, and so does the stomach. During winter I don’t give strawberries a second thought but I could eat them any day of the week when they are in season. But there are some foods that you can’t help but crave – regardless of the season and once your head starts asking for it, your stomach won’t stop needing it until it is satisfied. The other day, despite the humidity, I decided that I needed bread pudding.

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Maybe it was the little bout of rain we had last week that make we want to curl up on the couch with a nice, steaming bowl of pudding. I am not one to ever deprive my stomach of what it wants – it really is the force that drives, and controls me, so I made this little variation of a traditional bread pudding.

I am not a huge stickler for sticking too close to a traditional recipe; if you can change it to make it better – do it! While a bread pudding usually uses bread (as per the name), I have seen it made with brioche and croissants so I don’t think anyone is going to be too scandalised by the fact that I made mine with muffins.

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To begin, break or cut three large and slightly stale muffins into eight chunks each. You could use three croissants or pain-au-chocolat instead of muffins, or six slices of white bread. The muffins I used were banana and almond flavoured which I knew would give the pudding a lovely moreish flavour and it also meant that I wasn’t going to have to add much else to make it delicious – the work was already done for me!

Place the muffin pieces into a baking dish and set aside. In a recipe using just bread, pouring a little melted butter over top of the bread chucks is recommended, but these muffins were practically bleeding butter so I decided to skip this step for time’s sake.

For each muffin that you use (or for each two slices of bread) whisk one egg, a ¼ cup of sugar and a ½ cup of milk with a teaspoon each of vanilla and cinnamon. This is essentially going to form he custard that the bread absorbs.

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“Custard-soaked bread” is not a description that does this dish any justice, so we need to make it a little more exciting. Sprinkle about a ½ cup of dried fruit or chocolate drops over the bread and pour over the custard mixture. You could use raisins, pistachio nuts or even cubes of apple. As I mentioned, my muffins already had banana in them and were topped with almond slithers, but I topped mine with fresh slices of banana and a few dried cranberries for a little colour.

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Bake your assembled pudding at 175°C for 45minutes until crisp and golden on top.

A nice crunch on top, and an oozy warmth in the centre; folds of bread filled with bursts of custard – just what the doctor ordered! And by doctor, I mean my stomach. Enjoy piping hot while staring out the window as the rain runs down the window, like tears at the realisation that summer will eventually finish, or refrigerate overnight to enjoy as a cooling treat in the midday heat. Or eat the leftovers for breakfast. I did, and trust me, your arteries might not thank you, but your taste buds surely will!

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apple skin tisane

I have recently been trying to make a conscious effort lower the amount of waste coming out of our kitchen, I generally hate to throw anything away as it is but I have been thinking a bit about sustainability and ecofriendly-ness and I found an awesome way of using the apple peel left over from my tart; apple skin tea.

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I know that the name doesn’t make it sound like the greatest thing, but it was actually really good, and so easy to make! Essentially it is equal parts apple skin and water, then flavoured with anything you like; a vanilla pod, a cinnamon stick, you could even add dried citrus zest for a sweet, fruitier flavour.

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Just add the ingredients into a pot, bring to the boil and simmer for about 30 minutes before draining the apple skins out. You will be left with a soft pink liquid which you can drink hot as a tisane tea, cold as a juice or even reduce it down to use as a cocktail flavouring. Or you could do as the French do and add it to a coup de champagne and make an apple kir royal.

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we are the world: an international apple tart

Last week we had a work lunch where we were told to bring something that represented our heritage. Now, this was a little bit of a loaded question for me as my family have lived in New Zealand since the 1860’s so we are by all means very Kiwi, yet our actual heritage from before that time is from all over the place; Scotland, Norway, Italy and Greece, apparently the Near East a little bit too. This is a lot to try and fit into one dish but I have tried to combine as many element as possible in my apple, cheddar and rosemary tart.

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apple, cheddar and rosemary tart

This recipe calls for:
1 onion or leek
2 sprigs of rosemary
3 apples; peeled, cored, and sliced
1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar or Calvados
½ a packet of filo pastry
1/3 cup of crème fraiche
200 grams of vintage cheddar
1 tablespoon of tahini
1 teaspoon of cinnamon

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As you can see, I have a French influence in the leeks and apples, English with the cheddar, a bit of the Near East with the tahini, and a Greek touch with the filo pastry. You can use whatever pastry you like; I used filo because I had some left over from the last time I made baklava. Ideally, green apples are the best for this, but I don’t really like them and had regular royal gala apples on hand and they worked well too.

Firstly, sauté the onion (in butter, as opposed to olive oil for a sweeter flavour). Once they are soft and translucent, set them aside to cool. Mix in the sliced apples, vinegar and rosemary leaves, add a dash of salt and pepper if you feel the need.

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Next whip the crème fraiche, tahini and cinnamon together. The tahini and cinnamon give the crème fraiche a nice complexity of sweet, savoury, nutty and subtly spicy, but they can be omitted if you like.

Layer the pastry into a dish, brushing each layer with a little melted butter as you do so. Spread the crème fraiche mixture over it, top with 2/3 of the grated cheese before adding the apples and the remaining cheese.

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Bake at 200°C for 30 minutes and leave to cool before removing from the dish and slicing.

It is safe to say that this dish went down a treat, maybe the story behind it was a little over everyone’s heads but it definitely was delicious. It is great served hot with a side of salad, and also makes a great hamper-filler, eaten cold at a picnic. Bon appetite!