Sunday 26 July 2009

The morning after the crime scene before

Courgette muffinSpice cookie

Last night we sat in our friends Riccardo and Alastair’s garden sipping watermelon martinis among the pots of lavender as the sun dipped behind St Mary’s church spire. Barney and Elliot, (the boys’ handsome black-and-white cocker spaniel and Barney’s most beloved friend) tumbled around the terrace. Candles flickered in lanterns and the Noisettes’ Wild Young Hearts drifted through the French windows. It was a perfect summer’s evening.


Then Lady de B’s phone rang. At that time on Saturday evening, it would normally be someone enquiring where the party was. But it wasn’t. It was the police saying the alarm was going off at her house a mile or so away. Sean and Lady de B took off to investigate, leaving the rest of us to finish off the martinis and speculate about what kind of athletic act Lady de B’s cat, Whisky, must have got up to to set off the alarm.

Sean called to say there really had been a break in. Nothing had been taken – the thief panicked when the alarm went off and had broken the large window at the front of the house in his haste to get away. They were waiting for someone to come and board up the window, so the five of us headed off down the Kingsland Road to keep them company.

We set the table and ordered takeaway from the local Thai restaurant, so by the time the boarding up men got there, we were sitting down to a feast of green chicken curry, beef satay and coconut rice. I’ve never been to a better catered crime scene, nor one where the champagne flowed so freely. Lady de B, you are a hostess to your bones and the perfidious fiend who attempted to breach the manoir last night is in for some seriously bad karma. At the very least, a life of sunken soufflés and wrinkled table linen, which I know is your own vision of purgatory.

This morning, I was feeling a bit fragile. I was good only for a long bubble bath with a fat paperback followed by a slightly wobbly attempt at a manicure. By this afternoon I was feeling a little brighter so some restorative baking was in order – a few muffins to snack on and cookies to nibble during the week. When the going gets tough, the tough get baking…

Courgette and Pine Nut Muffins


These were a bit experimental so this mixture makes 17, not a nice, neat dozen. If I were capable of complicated maths at this point, I would have played around with the quantities, but hey, it’s Sunday.

Just one bite

300g plain flour, sieved
40g jumbo oats
2 tsp baking powder
½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
1-2 tsp flaky sea salt, depending on the saltiness of your Parmesan
A few grinds of black pepper
6 big leaves of basil, shredded
2 eggs
375ml whole milk yoghurt
60g unsalted butter, melted and cooled
90g Parmesan, coarsely grated, plus another 20g to sprinkle on the top
270g courgettes, coarsely grated
70g cup pine nuts, toasted
90g sultanas

Preheat the oven to 200C/400f/Gas mark 6. Line two muffin tins with 17 paper cases.

Grated courgette

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, oats, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, salt, pepper, basil and Parmesan. In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs, yoghurt and butter. Pour over the dry ingredients and stir with a spatula until roughly combined – don’t overmix. Add the courgettes, pine nuts and sultanas and stir until just evenly distributed.

Stiring the batter Adding the cougettes, sultanas and pine nutsReady for the oven

Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin cups, filling each about ¾ full, and sprinkle over the rest of the Parmesan. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the middle of a muffin comes out clean, 16-18 minutes. Cool in the pan on a wire rack for a couple of minutes then turn out onto the rack. Eat them warm or store them, when they’re completely cooled, in an airtight container for up to two days. They freeze well for up to one month.

Spice cookies

Making cookies

It’s a miserable sort of day today. When I lived in Scotland, I learned to call this kind of weather ‘dreich’, a word that perfectly describes this wearisome combination of overcast, drizzly and cold. Spice cookies were the order of the day. I based this recipe in one I found in a French baking book. I upped the spice quota a bit and added some espresso and the combination was pretty good.

Makes about 28 cookies

90g unsalted butter
30g light Muscovado sugar
80g honey
200g plain flour
1tsp baking powder
1tsp ground cinnamon
1tsp ground ginger
½ tsp ground cardamom
¼ tsp espresso-ground coffee (optional)
A pinch of cloves
A good pinch of salt

For the glaze:

150g icing sugar, sieved
1tbsp lemon juice
1tbsp water

Preheat the oven to 150C/300F/Gas mark 2.

Measuring the batter Ready to bake

Melt together the butter, sugar and honey in a saucepan and let it cool a little. Tip in the flour, spices, espresso and salt and beat together until you have a smooth batter. Roll the batter into balls of about 1.5cm diameter. Place them on a baking sheet lined with parchment, a couple of centimetres apart. Bake for about 18 minutes until lightly golden. While they’re cooking, make the glaze by beating together the icing sugar, lemon juice and water. Brush the glaze onto the cookies while they’re still warm and leave to cool completely on a wire rack.

Glazed cookies


  1. this look fab cooking is so therapeutic

  2. to the Lady B - i am glad all is well and i applaud your total aplomb throughout said crisis
    to Ms Spoon - i adore you and your "well, this is what i can just whip up after to much champs and a glorious morning in the bathtub"
    i make a similar drop scone
    which is adored and never uses up enough of the zucchini which overtakes the kitchen counter at this time of the year

  3. Oh man...delicious! And wow! A night of adventure, friends, cocktails and food~ way to handle things, indeed :D

  4. Perfect timing - it's the annual courgette-glut time again on the allotment so courgette recipes are always welcomed. The muffins look fab. And they freeze well - always an added bonus.

  5. What a night you had--from the martinis onward! The muffins looks spectacular, as do the cookies...but you had me with the muffins.

  6. Those muffins look fab, and I LOVE spice cookies!! Beautiful!!

  7. Those both look great!

    Thanks for sharing the recipes!

  8. Your posts get better and better: stories with attitude, food with Philosophy, cooking with Karma, lifestyle with love. Your definition of Lady de B's vision of Hell - 'a life of sunken soufflés and wrinkled table linen' - is masterly (mistressly?) The benchmark gets higher and higher ...

  9. Lady de B sounds like the ultimate hostess! Talk about turning a negative into a positive! I can only imagine what the "boarding men" were thinking when they arrived to find you all feasting away at a crime scene. That's hilarious.

    I love the paper cases you have used. I haven't seen anything like them. They make the muffins look so homely and ruffled. Your muffins sound healthy but tasty and I imagine they would remain moist with the yoghurt and courgette. Good hearty fare to get you going again after a crime and champers.

    Im curious about the cookies - are they soft or crunchy? They look so pretty with the glaze.

  10. Rebecca - Thank you, it certainly is.
    Lady P - And where is this dropscone recipe, this ode to green? I would love to try it - as you say, courgettes/zucchini runeth over at this time of year.
    Girlichef, Cookie Pie and Jenn - Thanks!
    Scarlett - They really do freeze well, but I'm afraid they were devoured before they could make it that far.
    Catherine - Thank you. You know, I don't really care for most bought muffins. The ones I've tried at least seem a bit too cakey and doughy. I like these because there's just about enough batter to bind the rest of the ingredients together so their flavours really shine.
    Wendy - You're too kind. I'm sure the fact that you're my mum doesn't bias your view at all. Thanks for all the lovely things you say. You're tops.
    Mariana - She's the best, the living embodiment of the saying 'if life gives you lemons, make lemonade'. I can assure you the look on the boarding up men's faces was one of gentle amusement.

    I love these paper cases too. They're made from 16cm square pieces of baking paper which is sort of molded and pleated into a cup shape - I bought a wholesale pack of them so I have loads. You can expect to see them again around these parts! The muffins are very light and tasty. Next time I might replace the butter with olive oil to give them even more of a Mediterranean kick. As for the cookies, they're a bit crunchy on the outside and softer in the middle.

  11. will get my melting and sweating derriere in gear and get that drop scone recipe to you soon - hugs, though you might not want them as the are very very damp

  12. Now I know how you seem to be such a beautiful person. With a mother who offers such wonderful encouragement and praise like yours I find myself feeling slightly envious.
    Ps. I agree with you about using the olive oil.

  13. Everything looks great! But I am especially craving a watermelon libation now...

  14. wow those spice cookies looks so cute and yummy :)

  15. what an interesting muffin recipe! and those spice cookies look delicious :)

  16. Lady P - I do hope you're not melting over there, though we could do with a little of your sunshine here right now. Please send, along with recipe, and I'll try to FedEx you some rain right back.
    Mariana - All of my good qualities I ascribe to being blessed with such lovely parents; all of my bad ones are entirely my own work!
    Molly Jean - They were very gooood, I'd love to give you a recipe, but it rather changed as we went along. Essentially, it was pureed watermelon, vodka, lime juice and a slosh of Cointreau.
    PBS and Snooky doodle - Thank you!

  17. you zucchini muffins are so adorable. I'm definitely making this for my next dinner party. I'm sure they'd be great appetizers, thanks for sharing!

  18. Yikes, scary! Those muffins look delicious!

  19. Jackie - I hope you enjoy them - they'd be great with a little salad or a bowl of soup. As I said to Mariana, next time I make them I might replace the butter with olive oil, you might try this too?
    Rebekka - Thank you!

  20. Those muffins look absolutely divine, and my mouth is watering just looking at the picture...I was very sorry I missed out on all the action on Saturday night - but I might have known that there could never be something as straightforward as an 'ordinary' burglary at the residence of Lady de B!

  21. Hey Paul, We're sorry too! It must have been a bit of a surprise to come home and see de Beauvoir mansions looking like an up-market crack den with those boards over the windows. Hope to see you soon, kiddo. Dx

  22. I love the friendships you have there and how everyone just got up and moved the "party" to the crime scene! ;) You should put these stories in a book and add the recipes you had to them and sell it! And when you do, let me know! I'll be one of the first lined up to buy your book! You make cooking so much fun and easy and something that everyone should do. I love that!

  23. QSM - I feel very lucky to have such lovely friends. I suppose this happens in lots of big cities - very few people I know are really 'from' here. We're mostly Londoners by choice, accident, happy twist of fate so when you're a long way away from home, your friends become an extension of your family. Thank you so much for your lovely comment about my stories and recipes. It means a lot. And who knows? Perhaps one day...


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