Birthday Celebrations

It was my birthday last week and I’m lucky enough to have great friends with whom I had a fantastic time. This time I didn’t bake the cake because one of my presents was… the cake!



A bonus to learning languages (see my links to the right) is that there are great people in these courses (and no, I am not speaking about myself!) I usually make very good friends there. So I had a bunch of friends over for a very informal lunch from my various courses (Russian, Swedish and Japanese). I cannot thank them enough for making it a memorable Sunday for me.


But this being a blog about food, I guess you probably want to know what we had for lunch.


Due to popular demand (yes, that’s you Jane!) I will begin with the spicy caramel cashew nuts I made. 

Apart from having my own, I also like reading other people’s blogs and I found this recipe in Anne’s, a fellow blogger from Sweden.

The original called for blanched almonds but I made it with cashew nuts and they went down a treat. I know the photo is terrible but we were all eager to get our hands on them!!!





Spicy Caramel Cashew Nuts
Makes: too few.

150 g blanched almonds (I used unsalted cashew nuts, not roasted)
1 tbsp oil
2 tbsp sugar + 1 tbsp
sprinkle of Maldon sea salt
sprinkle of Cayenne pepper
sprinkle of cumin
sprinkle of hot pepper 


Heat the oil in a heavy pan or in a wok. Add the nuts and the two tbsp of sugar. Fry this until the nuts are golden, stirring well. Immediately transfer to a bowl and toss with everything else, including the extra tablespoon of sugar.
Let cool on a plate, break apart any stuck bits, and serve. (Before you eat them all.)




The second thing I want to tell you about is Dorie Greespan’s Corn Muffins.

After everybody had assured me they liked the nuts, the muffins and co., I could safely make a confession: everything on the table was a first for me so basically I was using my friends as guinea pigs! (Not that they minded very much, though). I was a bit worried about the oven in the house because I moved in only recently and I still need to get the hang of it. I was quite wary of baking a cake which is why Romily’s birthday present (the incredible cake) was a godsend. I guess I will eventually try my hand at baking something so that I can make friends with it.

In any case, these muffins turned out fine. I made them almost to the T although the original recipe called for buttermilk (which was nowhere to be seen in the supermarket aisles). Therefore I decided to go for clotted cream. Since I’d never made the muffins before, I have no idea what they were supposed to turn out like, with clotted cream they were just fine. The other thing I did differently was break up the corn kernels a little bit although the recipe did not specify it.



Corniest Corn Muffins adapted from Baking From My Home To Yours by Dorie Greenspan

– makes around 12 muffins


1 cup plain flour
1 cup polenta
6 tablespoons sugar
2 ½ teaspoons baking powder

¼ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
 ½ teaspoon salt

1 cup buttermilk (as I said, I used clotted cream instead)
3 tablespoons (1  ½ ounces) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
3 tablespoons corn oil (I used regular)
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1 cup corn kernels (add up to 1/3 cup more if you’d like), fresh, frozen or canned (in which case they should be drained and patted dry)

pinch of freshly grated nutmeg (optional)





Getting ready: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 400°F. Butter or spray the 12 muffin molds in a regular-size muffin tin, or fit the molds with paper muffin cups.

Working in a large bowl, whisk together the flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt and nutmeg. In a large glass measuring cup with a spout or in another bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, melted butter, oil, egg and yolk. Pour the liquid ingredients over the dry ingredients and, with the whisk or a rubber spatula, gently but quickly stir to blend. Don’t worry about being thorough – the batter will be lumpy and that’s just the way it should be. Stir in the corn kernels. Divide the batter evenly among the muffin molds.

Slide the pan into the oven and bake 15 to 18 minutes, or until the tops are golden and a knife inserted into the center of the muffins comes out clean. Pull the pan from the oven and carefully lift each muffin out of its mold and onto a rack to cool.


Serving: The muffins are great warm or at room temperature and particularly great split, toasted and slathered with butter or jam or both (if they’re not in breadbasket at dinner, that is).


Storing: Like all muffins, these are best eaten the day they are made. If you want to keep them, it’s best to wrap them airtight and pop them into the freezer, where they’ll keep for about a month; re-warm in a 300°F oven, if you’d like, or split them and toast them—do that and they’ll be that much more delicious with butter.

Note: this particular batch did not make it to the Storing stage.


And last but not least, these roasted chickpeas, again from Anne’s blog. She in turn took it from another blog but I sort of followed her version instead of the original. I found a commercialized version of them in the supermarket when I was shopping for the party in the Indian section. Apparently these chickpeas are much better than crisps because they provide protein, calcium and fiber as well.



Roasted chickpeas

1 can of chickpeas (about 400 g)
1 teaspoon of olive oil
cayenne pepper

Drain and rinse the chickpeas. Heat the oven to 225 degrees C. Put the chickpeas on a baking sheet, and roast for 20 minutes. Shake them a little bit half way through.

Take them out and put into a bowl. Add the oil and the spices, as much as you want, and mix well. Turn the chickpeas back onto the baking sheet, and back in the oven for another 5-10 minutes. They’re done when they’re bronzed and VERY crunchy. You need to almost hear them popping, like popcorn. When that happens, they’re ready. I had to leave them for longer than that but may be that was the oven’s fault.


 Anyway, all in all everything went well. Everyone had a great time and, if I have to “complain” about something it was only that the time went by too quickly!


4 thoughts on “Birthday Celebrations

  1. Thanks for that! I can assure you everything was indeed delicious. I am glad you can appreciate it a bit in the photos. Do try the chickpeas and let me know!

  2. I love corn muffins. The texture that they have makes them my favorite. I like the idea of having actual corn kernels in there for even more texture. Is there a difference between using polenta and cornmeal?

  3. Nope. They are exactly the same. Polenta is the Italian term and cornmeal, I guess, is the American way of referring to the same thing. Happy baking!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s