I'm sure I've said it before, but it probably bears saying again. One of the best things about blogging (to me, anyway) is the wonderful people I've met. People still look at me a bit strangely when I say "I met Johanna through the Internet", but I'm getting used to it My friends were even more horrified when I started meeting up with these people in person. Surely the next thing would be the discovery of my body in a shallow grave in West London with the neighbours looking on, tut-tutting and saying "oh, they were always a very quiet family, kind to animals" as the police excavate the back garden in the background.
But so far, so good. No psycho food bloggers – only lovely folk!
And in fact, we have become so fond of each other's company that when Johanna was confined to her house with a small baby earlier this year, she devised a cunning plan to be able to see us all regularly and continue eating lovely food without leaving the house. Her plan was the Cook Book Cooking Club. The idea was that every month or two, a group of us would get together at Johanna's house, having selected a particular cookbook from which to cook, and then cook an extravagant meal together. In fact, the kind of meal you would probably never cook at home because you don't have eight arms and could never manage to get all the components ready and assembled in the space of a day! But of course, this would require some planning. Cookbooks would have to be perused, recipes debated and a menu put together. And seeing as we're a democratic lot, we thought that the way to get the ball rolling would be to have a planning meeting ahead of the first CBCC. With some nibbles, naturallement. We are food bloggers, after all. And so it came to be that one afternoon in, erm, spring (procrastination really sucks…) I found myself at Johanna's house together with Christina, Jennifer and Susan, a stack of cookbooks and a table of edible treats.
So what do bloggers make when they get together for tea? All kinds of stuff, really. Johanna was responsible for the delightful and jewel-like mini fruit tartlets on your left above, and the glorious bowl of Mayer lemon curd in the foreground of the picture is Jennifer's handiwork. The tarts were the perfect balance of a sweet vanilla custard base and tart summer fruits, while the lemon curd was simply sublime. I can now see why people rave about Mayer lemons. On the right we have Christina's equally delightful Medieval prune tartlets which tasted for all the world like there were figs in them too. But totally addictive, whichever way you look at it.
Johanna was also responsible for the lovely fruit scones on the left, served with sinfully thick cream and a selection of jams, homemade as I recall. There can be few things as satisfying for afternoon tea as fresh scones with jam and cream – just marvellous. Holding the fort in the savoury department were me and Susan. Susan brought little crustless rare roast beef and horseradish sandwiches on homemade bread, as well as the most charming little bite-sized scones filled with chives and ham (neither are pictured). She also made the beautiful smoked salmon bites on the right – not only a feast for the eye but also for the tongue.
And as for my contribution? Well, as is my habit I steered clear of the sweet stuff and rounded out the complement of savouries with the ham, cheese and paprika muffins you see pictured at the top of this post. They are easy to make and delicious hot out of the oven with a generous smear of butter. The recipe is from the ever-reliable Australian Women's Weekly Muffins, Scones and Bread book. Enjoy!
HAM, CHEESE AND PAPRIKA MUFFINS (makes 12)
2 cups self-raising flour
1/2 tsp chicken stock powder
1/2 tsp ground hot paprika
130g chopped cooked ham (about 6 slices)
1.5 cups coarsely grated full flavour cheddar cheese
1 medium egg, lightly beaten
sweet paprika for sprinkling on top
Grease a 12 hole muffin pan (or use non-stick like I did!). Pre-heat the oven to 200C.
Sift together the dry ingredients into a large bowl and rub in the butter with your fingertips. Stir in the chopped ham and grated cheese, then the egg and milk.
Spoon the mixture into the muffin pan, sprinkle with the sweet paprika and bake for about 20 minutes, until the tops begin to brown and a toothpick inserted into the centre comes out clean.