I was hosting the Long Ashton clothes swap last night. Good excuse for a REALLY thorough tidy up - so thorough that I stirred up enough dust to make 2 guests sniff and cough all evening (I even got the Piriton out for them but the "Avoid Alcohol" note on the bottle made us reluctantly put it back). 10 ladies with enormous bags of clothes they didn't want. We usually have 2 trying-on sessions: one early on where we pick some great outfits and hold them back for ourselves, then the later one, after more wine, where anything seems possible and the pirate shirt feels like an edgy new look with a respectful nod towards Vivienne Westwood - until you try it on the next day and husband says "Ah hargh me hearties". This time there was a cable-knit waistcoat with leather buckle fastenings and suede shoulder patches that seemed perfect until someone very wisely said "Going shooting?" and I took it off. This time the advantage of being host means that I can this morning go through the gargantuan pile of leftover clothes with a more critical eye before jettisoning the lot to the charity shop.
Awake half the night with an evil headache behind my left eye, clinging to the bed in terror after a dream that rainwater had been gradually been dripping down the chimney and making the bedroom floor slowly damper and damper until it finally and suddenly disintegrated, dragging my wardrobe through a gaping hole into the living room downstairs and threatening to take the bed the same way. Do I need to get that analysed?
Great night had by all, if the kitchen floor strewn with crisps, pistachio shells and corks is anything to go by. And I have several people asking for my recipe for a middle-eastern carrot dip. To be honest I wouldn't have made it but I wanted to test it out before a North Somerset Arts get-together on Tuesday. It went really quickly to plenty of "ooh's" and did go very well with some cheese, sweetcorn and chilli muffins so both will be reappearing next week. I wanted the dip to taste like one I had at the wonderful Soukitchen in Bedminster and it wasn't far off once I interfered with the recipe a bit. Sorry I haven't any photos to show you but a) the food's all gone and b) I haven't had my whizzy new camera yet.
Roasted Carrot and Cumin Dip (loosely based on a recipe I found online from a New Zealand magazine called Cuisine)
400g carrots (I had 3 very long ones)
1/4 teaspoon cumin seeds
A good glug of olive oil, probably 2 tablespoonfuls or so
1 dessertspoon tahini - not too much or it makes everything bitter
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 a small clove of garlic
1 dessertspoon agave syrup or maple syrup, or even honey - probably should be pomegranate molasses to be authentic but I didn't have any
Salt and pepper
Preheat your oven to Gas Mark 5 or 190c. Peel the carrots and slice them, then put them in an ovenproof dish with the olive oil and cumin seeds, season, mix them so that they are covered in the oil and then cover with either a lid or some foil. Bake them until they are soft - mine took around 35 minutes. When they are cooked and still hot, chop the garlic up very finely and then put everything (include the juices from the baking dish as well as the carrots) into a food processor and whiz until completely pureed. I had to add a little water to get a properly dippy consistency. Taste and season - it needs to be properly tasty (read salty!) to officially be a dip rather than something resembling baby food. Cool and chill for a couple of hours to let those flavours mingle and do their magic.
Chilli, Cheese and Sweetcorn Muffins (reproduced without shame from The Hummingbird Bakery's Cake Days)
5g (1/4oz) butter
60g (2oz) onion, peeled and finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon dried mixed herbs
300g (10oz) plain flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1/4 teaspoon salt (I have doubled their amount)
250ml (9fl oz) milk
2 large eggs
85g (3oz) butter, melted
100g (3 1/2 oz) mature Cheddar, grated
60g (2oz) tinned sweetcorn
1 teaspoon red chilli paste (I just chopped up a chilli very finely until it looked like a teaspoonful)
This recipe is originally for 12 big muffins, in a deep muffin tin. I've made them like this but yesterday's experiment was halving the recipe for 24 mini canape-sized ones. The big ones go really well with some carrot and coriander soup.
Preheat the oven to Gas Mark 3 or 170c and line the tin with muffin cases if you are using them. Melt the 5g of butter in a small pan and gently fry the onion and herbs until soft. set aside.
Put the flour, baking powder, bicarb and salt in a bowl - the book says "sift" but life feels too short for that to me. Add the milk and the eggs and whisk together, then add the melted butter, and mix again until you have a smooth mixture.
Tip in most of the cheese, the onions, chilli and sweetcorn and mix again. Spoon it into the muffin cases, then top with the remaining cheese. Bake for around 25 minutes until golden and springy. My mini ones took just 15 minutes. Cool impatiently on a wire rack. Or eat them while they are warm, up to you!