I can count the number of dinner parties I’ve hosted on one hand. I think people’s expectations of my skills in the kitchen are a little too high, and they’re often surprised to find I would rather order them a pizza than cook for them. I do cook, but with anxiety, and not very well. I’m more comfortable with cups of sugar and sticks of butter – ask me to bake you something and I’ll quite happily step up to the challenge.
I’ve started to keep a list on my phone of the number of times Conor and I indulge in a takeaway, and I’m trying to keep the month of May down to a single digit. I’m quite happy to cook for just the two of us, mostly because he’ll eat anything I make. He knows if he starts to complain there’ll be nothing to eat at all. In the beginning we were throwing away a lot of food because we would buy things without knowing what we were going to do with it, and then letting it grow mould. With meal planning we always know what we’ll be eating for the next week, and buy just enough ingredients for those meals. This way we’re saving more money, and reducing waste. But it also means we’re completely unprepared if someone drops by unannounced.
Last week when my Dad texted to say he was going to come over with my little sister, I instantly went into panic mode at work. It’s a well known fact when you come to a south-asian household, you better arrive with an empty stomach. It’s in our blood to feed, and if we’re not waving you goodbye in a food-induced coma, well then that’s just embarassing. I’ve watched my Mum effortlessly entertain over two dozen people in one night, almost every month for years, but the knack for it is not something which has rubbed off on me. I hope it’ll come with practice, and owning more pots.
When my friends came over for dinner I baked them cookies and these toffee popcorn cupcakes, and then ordered pizza for dinner. Because there was no way I was going to cook for 10 people and stay sane. The cupcakes are sweet, sticky, and gooey, with pieces of fudge and popcorn hidden within the cake, and the buttercream frosting topped with syrup, and more popcorn.
- For the cupcake:
- 145g self raising flour
- 170g sugar
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 60g unsalted butter
- 145ml milk
- 1 egg
- 1 tsp vanilla essence
- Large hundful of fudge, cut into small pieces
- Large handful of popcorn
- 2-3 tbsp golden syrup
- For the buttercream:
- 500g icing sugar
- 170g unsalted butter
- 60ml milk
- 1 tsp vanilla essence
- To finish:
- Golden syrup
- Preheat oven to 170C/325F/Gas mark 3.
- Sift together all your dry ingredients - the flour, sugar, baking powder, and butter. Mix well and rub in the butter until you get a breadcrumb-y consistency.
- In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg and milk. Add the vanilla essence.
- Gradually add the wet mixture to the dry mixture, mixing well and making sure everything has combined. Fold in the fudge pieces, popcorn and golden syrup.
- Fill ⅔rds of the cases by scooping a couple of tablespoons of the mixture into each one and place in the oven for 20-25 minutes. Once baked, remove from the baking tin immediately and allow to completely cool on a cooling rack.
- To make the frosting - mix together the butter and icing sugar. The longer you mix, the fluffier it will be. Slowly add the milk until you get the a smooth consistency. Add the vanilla essence and continue mixing for approx. 5 minutes. Place the frosting inside a piping bag and decorate. Top frosting with more golden syrup and popcorn.