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Simon Holst's recipes - Apple shortcake, butterscotch squares, spinach and feta muffins - 24 March

Spicy Apple Shortcake

Plain apples are sandwiched between two layers of a deliciously spicy crust in this very popular shortcake.

567g can apple slices or 3 cups well-drained chunky pieces of stewed apple*

125g softened butter
3/4 cup plain or brown sugar
1 large egg
2 1/4 cups standard (plain) flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 cup cocoa
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp mixed spice
1/4 tsp ground cloves (optional)

* If preparing fresh apple, peel, chop and cook the apple in a small amount of water until it is barely tender, then drain in a sieve. Measure the 3 cups after cooking and draining. Cool to room temperature.

Heat oven to 180degC (170degC fanbake), with the rack just below the middle. Line the base and sides of a 23cm square, preferably loose-bottomed baking pan with baking paper.

For filling, open canned apple, drain, then chop into smaller, evenly sized chunks.

For base and topping, beat the soft butter and sugar together in a bowl or food processor, then add the egg and beat again. Sift in the remaining ingredients and mix to make quite a soft dough. Halve the dough and chill half in the refrigerator or freezer. Pat or roll out the other half on the paper pan-lining, using extra flour to prevent sticking if you need to.

Spread the drained apple evenly over the base, then coarsely grate the remaining chilled dough over the apple. (The grated topping will spread and flatten as it cooks.)

Bake for 30-45 minutes, or until the centre feels firm. Sprinkle with icing sugar before cutting.

Serve warm or refrigerate in a covered container until required.

Butterscotch Squares

Alison simplified a three-layered butterscotch bar for "beginner" cooks, and it remains enormously popular!

Base and Topping:
125g butter
1/2 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup self-raising flour
1 cup standard (plain) flour

100g butter
2 rounded household tablespoons golden syrup
400g can sweetened condensed milk

Heat oven to 180degC (170degC fanbake), with the rack just below the middle. Line a 23cm square or 18x28cm baking pan with 2 strips of baking paper, so bottom and all sides are covered.

For base, cut butter into 9 pieces and warm in a large pot or microwave dish until it starts to melt. Take off heat and beat in the sugar, egg and vanilla with a fork or stirrer, until evenly mixed. Stir in the flours until mixture is crumbly, then squeeze it into a ball with your hands. Break 3/4 of the dough into bits, and place these evenly in the prepared baking pan, patting them fairly flat. (You can put a piece of plastic between the mixture and your fingers if you like.) Put the rest of the dough in the refrigerator or freezer.

For filling, melt the butter in a pot or microwave-proof bowl. Measure the syrup, using a hot wet spoon, and stir in. Add the condensed milk, mix well, then pour the filling over the unbaked mixture in the tin.

For topping, coarsely grate the (cold) remaining piece of dough on top of the filling, using a grater with large holes. Bake for 30-45 minutes, until the crust is golden and the filling has browned. Cool on a rack for 2 hours, then lift carefully from the baking pan (on the paper) and cut into pieces of desired size (see page 94), using a sharp knife dipped in hot water.

Serve anytime, with tea, coffee or milk, or pack in lunches. Store in a covered container, refrigerating if keeping for a week or so, or freezing for longer storage.

Spinach and Feta Muffins

It's hard to know what makes the combination of spinach and feta cheese work so well, but it does! The green flecks from the spinach make these muffins look really good too.

For 12 regular-sized muffins :
1/2 cup (100-125g) cooked spinach, chopped*
1 cup (250g) light cottage cheese
1 cup milk
1/4 cup canola oil
1 large egg
50-75g feta, cubed or crumbled

1 cup wholemeal flour
1 cup plain flour
4 tsp baking powder
1/2-1 tsp salt

*For convenience try using 1/2 a 250g block of frozen spinach.

Heat oven to 210degC (200degC fanbake), with the rack just below the middle.

Lightly squeeze the cooked spinach, reserving the liquid. Make the spinach liquid up to 1 cup with milk, then place the spinach, milk, cottage cheese, oil and egg in a large bowl and mix well. Add the cubed or crumbled cheese and mix lightly.

Measure the flours, baking powder and salt together into another bowl and toss together with a whisk or fork.

Tip the flour mixture into the liquids, then fold gently together until the flour is just moistened. The mixture does not need to be smooth.

Spoon the mixture into 12, non-stick sprayed, regular sized muffin pans, then bake at 210degC (or 200degC for fan-bake) for 15 minutes or until golden brown and a skewer poked into the centre of a muffin comes out clean.

Remove muffins from the oven and leave to cool in their pans for 2-3 minutes before tipping out and cooling on a rack. (Note, these muffins do seem to stick to their pans when first removed from the oven, but standing for a few minutes really does help removal.)

Serve, warm or store cooled muffins in sealed bags to prevent drying out.