Muffins get a bad rap. Paraphrasing a British expression about US GIs – used disparagingly during WW2 – they are over-filled, over-sweet and over here. But muffins don’t have to be the gummy-textured, American-style behemoths beloved of overpriced (and over here) coffee chains. They don’t even need to be sweet. And, dear Lord, they can even be healthy.
But the real clincher is their simplicity. Savoury muffin making is bread making for Dummies. So, perfect for non-bakers such as myself. No faffy yeast (‘is this the kind I have to revive in water, or the one you add straight in?’). No agonising wait ‘for proof.’ Just mix the dry stuff and the wet stuff, pour into tins and wait a mere 20 minutes. And since there is nothing to ice, you can eat them pretty much straight away. Straight out of the tin if you are hungry enough.And we were. I didn’t get many pictures taken as we were too busy shovelling warm, cheesy, vegetabley muffins straight in our gobs. A warm muffin waits for no one, especially not an amateur photographer with a hungry family being restrained only by a wooden spoon.
I caved in pretty quickly. Mr A had just returned from the infamous Monster Bike and Hike (30 mile cycle in the undulating Highlands of Scotland and a 43 mile hill run) so was hungrier than I have ever seen him. Even after telling me his team had, on the return car journey, a massive Scottish ‘fry up’ (don’t ask) AND three hours later a 4-egg omelette at the Ballinluig Motor Grill (!) , I was hard pressed to fill him up.
So, savoury muffins and a roast chicken dinner with five vegetables and Yorkshire puddings finally did the trick. As an indulgent aside from me, kudos must go to all 500+ competitors, and the ultra-hard working support teams and volunteers for this huge Maggie’s Cancer Caring Centres fund-raiser. I hope you/they are having a well-deserved Monday Bank Holiday rest today. Special shout outs to Issy, Mark, Nick, Laura, Marie, Dougie and Nathan for speedy times and a courageous effort.
Back to our regularly scheduled recipe: this one can go many ways. Although I have them with spring vegetables, I can only imagine how great these would taste with roasted aubergines, tomatoes and peppers. The spicing too is flexible. I love kalonji seeds, and any excuse to use turmeric, so I went with a kind of Indian vibe. But as I swiped a muffin through some soft, leftover lemon thyme butter (used under the chicken’s skin to keep it moist) I found that this was lovely too. I have given other flavour ideas in the recipe but, like last week’s Moroccan carrot salad recipe, the basic recipe is but a template. Go wild. Make them big, make them wee. Fill them with shredded beetroot and goats cheese. Stuff them with homemade pesto and wild garlic leaves. Just don’t try and find them in a coffee shop. It’s our little savoury secret. Shh.
Are you using vegetables in unexpected ways? Do you find coffee shop muffins over-rated, or am I just being a food snob?
Sunny Spring Vegetable Breakfast Muffins
I saw a recent post from Green Kitchen Stories for their Turmeric Breakfast Muffins and realized I make something not dissimilar, but savoury rather than sweet. We both use oats with our flour, although theirs has almonds too. In fact my Courgette, Lemon and Elderflower muffins from a few years back are probably more similar – and very, very good. But today’s muffins are filled with other spring goodies, and turmeric too.
Even if you don’t trust me, trust the Swedish lifestyle gurus at GSK. Homemade breakfast muffins are the bomb. Bake some, eat some, freeze some. Perfect also for lunch boxes, picnics (when we get the weather!), as a savoury nibble at ‘Elevenses’ and in lieu of bread with soup. Or straight out of the tin. Just saying.
200g (1 & 2/3 cups) sifted spelt flour or AP/plain flour (or cut with some wholemeal flour)
1 ½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda/ bicarbonate of soda
¾ tbsp turmeric
½ tsp dry mustard
½ tsp black pepper
90g (1 cup) oats (not jumbo oats)
¼ tsp nigella seeds/kalonji seeds/black onion seeds – plus extra
½ tsp fine salt
100g strong cheese of choice – vintage Cheddar, vegetarian Parmesan, smoked Dunlop (latter is what I used) OR 100g toasted chopped nuts/seeds + 3 tbsp nutritional yeast/Brewer’s yeast
75g (about 3 packed cups) baby spinach
1 medium carrot
2-3 tbsp chopped fresh chives or wild garlic leaves (I used 3)
150ml (2/3 cup) buttermilk OR plant/dairy yogurt OR dairy/plant milk with ½ tsp lemon juice added to sour it (I used buttermilk)
75ml (1/3 cup) extra virgin olive oil
3 eggs, lightly beaten OR 3 tbsp chia or flax seeds soaked in 9 tbsp of water for 15 minutes (to make it gel-like)
To garnish: asparagus tips, pumpkin seeds and/or nigella seeds
1. Oil a 12-hole muffin tin. Preheat the oven to 200C/180C fan/400F.
2. First of all blanch the spinach. Place damp spinach in a steamer and cook until wilted. When cool, squeeze the spinach in your hand to remove most of the liquid. For the carrots, carrot them and squeeze them in a clean tea towel. Set aside.
3. Sift the first five ingredients into a large mixing bowl; add in the remaining dry ingredients – I use a whisk, and fork through the cheese. Use a fork to mix in the cooked spinach, grated carrots and the chives.
4. In a jug, whisk/beat together the buttermilk, oil and eggs. Pour this over the dry ingredients and use a metal spoon to gently fold until no flour shows. But only just until this happens – any longer and the muffins will be tough. Unlike bread-making, where you want to work the gluten, for muffins you want to barely introduce the wet and dry ingredients so as not to work the gluten.
5. Use a 1/3 cup measure or large ice cream scoop to fill the prepared tin. The recipe makes about 12 muffins for a standard British muffin tin but yours may be larger so will need more batter in each. Fill to about three-quarters up.
6. Lay on the asparagus tips, if using, as well as any seeds. Place the tin in the oven and bake for 20 minutes, until golden brown and the sides are just pulling away from the tin. Leave to cool for about 10 minute before loosening with a knife and cooling a bit more on a wire rack. Or, eat them straight away!
These muffins will freeze well but are best allowed to defrost then gently reheated for 5 minutes in a 180C/160C fan/350F oven.
Other Options to Consider: goats cheese, shredded raw beetroot and carrot (squeezed in a towel) lemon thyme; tiny diced roasted aubergine and peppers with mi-cuit style tomatoes, oregano and rosemary; grated squash, lovage, chives, feta or olives; baby peas, mint, parsley, feta and walnuts.
Miss R’s Track of the Week: Jai Paul’s “Jasmine”
As this is loaded with unexpected veg I think this qualifies for the Extra Veg challenge hosted by Shaheen at Allotment2Kitchen, Michelle at Utterly Scrummy and founded by Helen at Fuss Free Flavours. And also over to the very kind and always welcoming Mark over at Javelin Warrior’s Cookin’ W/ Luv blog for his Made With Love Mondays. Thanks!