Miso and lemon mousetraps

Do you remember mousetraps from when you were a kid? I couldn’t wait to make them when the Small Girl was smaller, mainly so I could eat them myself. There’s something about salty, savoury Marmite that goes so well with slightly scorched bread and cheese. But I’ve found something that goes even better – a mega-umami hit of miso. I know it sounds unlikely, but one bite and you’ll be hooked. The only thing that makes it better is a squeeze of fresh lemon juice on top. Trust me, it’s a winner.

Miso And Lemon Mousetraps Photo And Recipe Credit: Lucy Corry/The Kitchenmaid

Miso and lemon mousetraps
The beauty of these mouth-watering morsels is that you can make a whole trayful to serve with drinks when  you are unexpectedly pressed into hostess service, or you can make a whole trayful and call it dinner on those nights when all you want to do is collapse on the sofa. You can use any kind of bread you like – baguette, a coarse-textured country loaf or even a cheeky gluten-free number, but nothing too wholegrain-y. Keep the slices about 1/2 a cm thick for best results and only toast one side so you get the soft/crunchy texture thing happening. I’ve kept quantities vague, but keep to the suggested ratio of miso to butter. Don’t forget the lemon, either. Any leftover miso-butter mixture can be kept in a covered container in the fridge.

sliced bread, as above
1/2 cup white miso
1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
50-100g tasty cheddar cheese, finely grated
1 juicy lemon

Preheat the grill and line a baking tray with foil or baking paper. Lie the slices of bread on top, then put under the grill until golden. Don’t do what I do and wander off, unless you have an unlimited supply of bread to replace the charcoal that those forgotten slices will become. Take the tray out of the oven and turn the slices over, so the toasted side is facing down.
Put the miso and butter in a small bowl and mix until well combined. Generously spread the non-toasted side of the bread with this mixture, then scatter some grated cheese on top. Return the tray to the grill and toast until the cheese is crispy and the edges of the bread are darkening.
Let cool briefly before serving with a squeeze of lemon on top.  These are best eaten the day they are made.

Kitchen DIY: Homemade capers

Do you want your neighbours to think you have gone mad? Here’s how.

1. Venture out to the council-managed garden areas (that is to say, those that are overgrown with weeds) on your street, preferably while wearing your gardening hat, gumboots and various other items of misshapen, mismatching clothing.

2. For best results, do this when your neighbours are walking up the street, preferably with their most glamorous friends and perfectly behaved children, in their best clothes.

3. Climb into one of the gardens and start pinching off nasturtium buds and flowers, putting them in the small bowl you have brought with you for this purpose.

4. Wave cheerily as the neighbours pass by. Tell them, when they enquire as to what you are doing, that you are picking the nasturtium buds to make into homemade capers and the flowers are going in tonight’s salad. Watch as the smiles become a bit more fixed and the stares become more glassy.

5. Scramble out of the garden and go to your house, while the net curtains across the street twitch frantically.

Well, that’s not completely accurate – our neighbours are all lovely and very few of them have net curtains. Actually, only the really weird ones have net curtains and we think it’s because they are Up To No Good In There. I do feel a bit of a dork to be sprung essentially harvesting weeds in front of them, but they should be used to it by now. In any case, I love nasturtiums and a bit of embarrassment is worth it.

Homemade Capers

Pickled Nasturtium Buds – aka Homemade Capers
Nasturtium flowers are great in salads and the leaves add a peppery bite to cream cheese and cucumber sandwiches – just pick the smaller ones as the big ones are really fiery. When the flowers have wilted (or been picked by someone like me), pick the little brain-like growths at the base of the flowers and use them in this homegrown version of capers.

At least 1/2 a cup of nasturtium buds, washed and dried
250ml rice wine vinegar
1 tsp salt
1 clove garlic
10 peppercorns

Put the vinegar, salt, garlic and peppercorns into a small saucepan and bring to the boil. Simmer for two minutes, then remove from the heat and let cool. Pour into a small sterilised jar, then add the nasturtium buds. Put a lid on the jar and leave for a couple of weeks in a cool place. The buds will be ready to eat when they have sunk to the bottom of the jar. You can keep adding new buds to the liquid.

Are you a forager? What’s your best tip?

Green peppercorn sauce for cheats

I pulled a packet of frozen peas out of the freezer yesterday and something heavy shot out from underneath them and landed on my foot. I uttered a string of epithets not suitable for a family-friendly food blog and bent down to pick it up. Was it a brick? Was it a small frozen animal? Was it that packet of wonton wrappers that I’ve been planning to use for ages? In fact, it turned out to be three small pieces of fillet steak. Hurrah! I nearly lost a toe, but I gained an excellent dinner. It seemed like a fair trade to me.

Green peppercorn sauce – the cheat’s version
When I told my beloved we were having steak for dinner he looked like I’d dropped the frozen meat on his foot. He perked up a bit when I told him it was fillet, then he perked up even more when I told him I’d make his favourite green peppercorn sauce. But somewhere between making the offer and dinnertime I got sideswiped by such fatigue that I couldn’t face all that faffing about with reductions and whatnot. Instead, I made this in all of five minutes and it was so good I don’t think I’ll ever go back to the other one. If you’re not a carnivore, rest assured this is equally good on baked potatoes or bread.

100g unsalted butter, softened
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
a good pinch of salt
4 tsp green peppercorns in brine

If you have a mortar and pestle, now’s the time to use it. If you don’t have a mortar and pestle (or you do and you just don’t have the energy), this is easy enough to do by hand. Put the garlic and salt in the mortar and pound away until it forms a smooth paste. Add the peppercorns and smash them a bit, then add the butter and mush it around a bit. Scrape it on to a piece of waxed paper and roll into a cylinder. Stick it in the fridge to firm up – for at least 15 minutes. When your steak or potatoes or toast is ready, slice the butter into discs and put on top. Buttery, peppercorny heaven awaits. If you don’t have a mortar and pestle (or you do and you just don’t have the energy), this is easy enough to do by hand.

What’s your favourite sort of butter?

Kitchen DIY: Homemade date syrup

I realised, slightly late in the piece, that it was a bit irresponsible to post a recipe for something using homemade date syrup without actually sharing how to make it. So, without any further ado, here’s how to make date syrup at home.

Easy Homemade Date Syrup

Homemade Date Syrup
This is quite different to storebought date syrup, sometimes called date molasses, which is cooked down to a more syrypy consistency. The DIY version has a fresher, slightly less sweet taste – and it’s still good to eat by the spoonful.

1 cup (about 200g) dates, chopped
1 cups (250ml) boiling water

Put the dates in a small, heatproof bowl and pour over the boiling water (add a little more if it doesn’t quite cover the dates). Cover and let stand overnight or for at least eight hours.
The next morning/when you get home from work, put the soaked dates and water into a food processor or blender and whizz until smooth and well combined.
Scrape this mixture into a clean jar and store in the fridge.

Treat me: Double date scones

About 18 months ago I had a real thing for date syrup. I’d discovered it in one of those funny grocer-cum-spice shops where the vegetables are all rotting and the shelves are stacked high with things the casual Western European customer may struggle to identify. Even buying the date syrup was a gamble – the label was in French and Arabic and the picture on it was of three camels ambling through a desertscape. Actually, the camels were a dead giveaway – after buying Iranian ‘Camel’ brand dates for years, I figured there was a good chance that this glossy brown syrup was date-based too.

Anyway, date syrup and all the things I made with it had become a sweet memory until a couple of weeks ago when the lovely Laura Faire emailed to ask where I bought mine from. I sent her a few suggestions for stockists, but she went one further and sent me a DIY recipe. Not only does it work a treat, it means I no longer have to worry that the date syrup I use might actually be made from camels.

Homemade date syrup is less, well, syrupy than the bought version, but it does the trick just as well. Try it on porridge, drizzled over yoghurt, or in these double date scones.

Double date scones
I made these yesterday morning when I realised we had slim pickings for breakfast. They are so easy and using spelt flour makes them very easy to eat. That is to say, a small child and her mother can easily gobble down quite a few of them without feeling in the least bit weighed down.

300g (2 cups) white spelt flour
4 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp mixed spice
1 cup dates, chopped
1/4 cup date syrup
1 cup cream

Heat the oven to 210C and put a baking tray in the oven.
Sift the flour, baking powder and spice into a large bowl. Stir through the chopped dates.
Mix the date syrup and cream together and pour into the dry ingredients. Fold together gently and quickly to make a soft dough. Turn out onto a piece of baking paper and shape into a rough rectangle, then cut into eight pieces. Transfer the baking paper and scones to the hot tray in the oven and bake for 10-12 minutes, until risen and golden.
Eat with lashings of butter or dollops of ricotta and honey.

Have a great weekend, everyone x