COOKING: Three tasty treats to tempt the family

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Leitrim Observer Reporter

COOKING: Three tasty treats to tempt the family

Banana, tahini and white chocolate muffins. Photo: Polly Webster

These recipes from The Botanical Kitchen by Elly McCausland, with photography by Polly Webster, is published by Bloomsbury Absolute

Baked Brie recipe with blackcurrants, pecans, honey and herbs

Photo by: Polly Webster

Ingredients
l Serves 4–6
l 45g pecan nuts
l 250g wedge of brie
l 70g fresh or frozen blackcurrants
l 2tsp thyme leaves or finely chopped rosemary needles
l 3tsp blackcurrant vinegar or balsamic vinegar
l 3–4tsp runny honey


Method
1. Pre-heat the oven to 190°C/170°C fan/gas mark 5.
2. Put the pecans in a small oven dish and place in the oven for eight minutes, until toasted. Remove (leave the oven on), set aside to cool, then roughly chop.
3. Take a small baking dish, the right size to fit the piece of brie snugly. Slice the brie horizontally in half (so you have two flat triangles). Put one half in the dish, cut side up. Take half the toasted pecans and press them gently into the cheese. Do the same with the blackcurrants (some will fall off the sides into the dish – that’s fine, but try to get as many as possible on the cheese). Sprinkle over half the thyme or rosemary, then drizzle over half the vinegar and half the honey.
4. Put the other piece of brie on top, rind side upwards (so you have essentially sandwiched the cheese back together as the wedge it was). Press the remaining pecans and blackcurrants onto the top of the cheese (again, some will fall off). Drizzle over the remaining vinegar and honey and sprinkle with the remaining thyme or rosemary.
5. Bake for 10–15 minutes, or until the cheese has melted and spread out a little in the dish. Remove from the oven, leave for five minutes, then dive in with crackers or good crusty bread.

Roast duck Thai red curry recipe with lychees

Photo by: Polly Webster

Ingredients
(Serves 4)
l 4 duck legs
l tbsp sea salt flakes
l 2tbsp coconut oil
l 6 banana shallots, thinly sliced
l 4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
l 1 lemongrass stalk, tough outer layers removed, very finely sliced
l 4 kaffir lime leaves (fresh, or frozen and thawed; avoid dried), finely shredded (tough centre stems discarded)
l 400ml full-fat coconut milk
l 2tbsp Thai red curry paste
l tsp light muscovado, palm or coconut sugar, plus extra to taste if necessary
l 1tsp ground turmeric
l 200ml hot chicken or vegetable stock
l 200g cherry tomatoesl A couple of large handfuls of spinach leaves
l Juice of 1/2 a lime, plus extra to taste if necessary, and wedges to serve
l Fish sauce or dark soy sauce, to taste
l 400g can of lychees, drained
l A small bunch of Thai basil, leaves picked, or 30g roughly chopped coriander leaves, for sprinkling

Method
1. Rub the duck legs well with the salt and place them in a single layer in a shallow dish. If you have time, chill them in the fridge overnight, or for a few hours, uncovered. This will help you to get really crispy skin. If you don’t have time to refrigerate the duck legs, simply rub the salt into the duck legs when you are ready to cook.
2. Pre-heat the oven to 210°C/190°C fan/gas mark 6–7.
3. Place the duck legs on a wire rack above an oven tray lined with foil, then place them in the oven and roast for 10 minutes to crisp the skin. Lower the oven temperature to 190°C/170°C fan/gas mark 5, add a cupful of water or stock to the oven tray, then roast for 90 minutes, until the duck is tender and cooked through.
4. Meanwhile, make the curry. Heat the coconut oil over a medium-high heat in a large frying pan or wok, then add the shallots and sauté them for five to 10 minutes, until golden and starting to soften. Add the garlic, lemongrass and lime leaves and cook for another couple of minutes until softened and aromatic.
5. Lower the heat to medium. Add a couple of tablespoons of the coconut milk and the curry paste, sugar and turmeric, and sauté for a couple of minutes until fragrant – add a little more coconut milk if it starts to stick. This will help to release the aromatics in the paste and prevent the paste from burning.
6. Add the stock and remaining coconut milk, then simmer for 15 minutes, until the sauce is thick, creamy and aromatic. Stir in the cherry tomatoes and spinach and cook for another 10–15 minutes, until the tomatoes start to break down. Lower the heat, then add the lime juice. Taste and check the seasoning – you may want to add some fish or soy sauce to make it more salty, depending on the brands of curry paste and stock you use, and you may want to adjust the lime juice and sugar.
7. Stir in the lychees to briefly heat through. Keep the sauce warm until the duck is ready.
8. When the duck legs are ready, place one leg on each of four plates. Divide the sauce equally between the four plates, pouring it over the duck legs. Sprinkle with the Thai basil or coriander leaves. Serve with steamed jasmine rice and lime wedges.


Banana, tahini and white chocolate muffin recipe

Ingredients
(Makes 12)
For the muffins:
l 200g plain flour
l 1tsp baking powder
l 1tsp bicarbonate of soda
l Seeds from 8 cardamom pods, finely ground
l 1/4tsp sea salt flakes
l 100g white chocolate chips (or l 1cm pieces of white chocolate)
l 3 large bananas, mashed
l 70g light brown soft sugar
l 1 egg
l 50g butter, melted and cooled
l 1tsp vanilla extract
l 60g tahini
For the tahini glaze:
l 2tbsp tahini
l 100g icing sugar
l 1tsp lemon juice
l 1tbsp sesame seeds (a mixture of black and white looks nice)

Method
1. Pre-heat the oven to 200°C/180°C fan/gas mark 6. Line a 12-hole muffin tray with paper cases (or grease thoroughly with some extra butter if you don’t have paper cases).
2. Sift together the flour, baking powder and bicarbonate of soda, then stir in the cardamom and salt. Stir in the white chocolate.
3. In a separate bowl, mash together the bananas, sugar, egg, melted butter, vanilla and tahini.
4. Mix the wet ingredients into the dry, being careful not to over-mix – this is the key to a light muffin. Divide between the 12 cases and bake the muffins for 20–25 minutes, until they spring back when pressed lightly with a finger.
5. Transfer the muffins in their cases to a wire rack to cool.
6. Make the glaze. In a small bowl, whisk together the tahini, icing sugar, lemon juice and two tablespoons of water. When the muffins are cool, spoon the glaze over the top. Sprinkle with the sesame seeds and leave for an hour or so for the glaze to set before eating (if you can wait!).