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Mint and Constructive Criticism

June 29, 2010

I’m home, which means fresh herbs, recently I’ve been missing them so much at uni. Here we have a decent selection: oregano, thyme, rosemary, mint, sage, basil, lavender and a few others; no borage though, my Dad dug it all up a few years ago in an effort to get rid of the weeds, with a little too much success. Everything is better with herbs…

My attack on the mint plant started with David Lebovitz’s mint chocolate chip ice cream, I followed his recipe to the letter, even his unusually way of making chocolate chips, which worked really well. The chocolate came out as soft little strands within the ice-cream, I’ll use this method of making chocolate chips again. The recipe is fantastic the ice-cream is strongly minty, yet the flavour is subtle, its mostly in the smell, and it has a lovely texture.

Then it was onto cake, my mum wanted cake to take into work for her birthday and still being in a minty frame of mind I suggested mint and lemon cupcakes, my mum fancied lavender cupcakes, so I made both, that way I could be selfish but at the same time make my mum what she wanted. I was a little experimental with the cake mix, and it turned out really well, moist and soft, but it needs to be tried in a big cake, I always find it hard to judge the cake in little cupcakes, and these were relatively small. The lavender is still quite young, so didn’t impart a huge amount of flavour, but subtlety is key when it comes to cooking with lavender, and these cupcakes were just right.

I really liked the yoghurt-buttercream icing, the yoghurt cuts some of the sweetness quite nicely. I used proper greek yoghurt and as the flavour of the yoghurt comes through quite strongly, so its important to use a good quality yoghurt.

The most exciting thing about these was that it gave me a chance to use the pretty cupcake cases my mum had brought back from Norway, I have been looking on their website and it looks like my kind of shop! The cupcake cases are slightly taller and sturdier than typical English ones, thus, they not only look pretty but are actually very functional.

Mint and lemon cupcakes and lavender cupcakes

(makes ~ 30)

7 oz sugar

8 oz margarine (or butter)

4 oz SRF

4 oz ground almonds

3 eggs

2 tablespoons yoghurt

1/2 tsp bicarb of soda

squeeze of lemon juice

1 heaped tsp lemon zest

1 heaped tsp finely chopped mint

1 tbsp finely chopped lavender

Icing

300g icing sugar

75g butter, softened

2 tbsp yoghurt

1 heaped tsp lemon zest

1 heaped tsp finely chopped mint

1 tbsp lavender, taken off the stalk

Cream butter and sugar, beat in eggs, and fold in flour, ground almonds and bicarb of soda. Stir in yoghurt. Split the mixture in half and add the mint lemon zest and juice to one half, and the lavender to the other. Spoon into cupcake cases and bake for about 10-15 mins at 180˚C, I had these in for about 15 mins in the top oven of the Aga with the cold shelf on top

For the icing, beat together the butter, sugar and yoghurt, split the mixture in two, adding lemon and mint to one half and lavender to the other.

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Constructive criticism has been the topic of the afternoon. I believe in praise, but only when praise is due, people in general are far too quick to give praise to the imperfect. I once had a piano teacher who told me how well I was doing at the end of each lesson, and slowly I watched myself practice less and less, because I knew the response would be the same whether I’d spent a week practicing every hour of the day, or hadn’t even bothered. That’s no way to learn something. I’m spending this week on a riding course, at a stables I’ve ridden at for many years now, whenever I’m home from uni I come back to them, because I’ve never found an instructor who can teach me better than the instructors there. M and C are both known for shouting at people, M expects, and demands perfection from everyone, and will accept nothing less than 110% of what you are capable of, and she will get it out of you. All the children hate M, or at the very least are scared of her, even her daughters will admit that had (and still have) awful nicknames for her as children, yet as an adult you can understand that M is doing what she does for your own good. Am I a better rider for having M as my instructor, yes, I believe I am. When M compliments my riding, I know I’ve done well, because she does not give out compliments lightly. How many people have congratulated recently on getting a first? many, somehow, though, few feel real and genuine, because they would have congratulated me if I’d got a 2.1, even though that would of meant that I’d hadn’t achieved what I was capable of achieving. I know its a completely different situation, but people are too prone to praise me, to praise in general. I don’t want to know that what I did was good, I want to know how I can make it better, but if it was excellent, I want you to tell me that. My mum tried my icing today, she said it was ok, so I asked her how I could make it better her reply was ‘oh I don’t know’, ‘ok’ doesn’t mean anything, tell me WHY you think that.

Between them M and C have taught me so much about how I learn best, and its most certainly not through the praise I have been given so frequently in my life. The thing that drives me to do better, to try harder, is constructive criticism, poor results and the feeling that I have something to prove.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. June 30, 2010 6:27 pm

    These look great. I’ve been looking for a recipe to use with lavender.

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