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Carrot, spinach and cumin muffins

It’s National Baking Week here in the UK and many people across the UK are baking up a storm to raise money for the wonderful Great Ormond Street Hospital.

I thought we’d try another of Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s savoury muffin recipes to start our week of baking, as we all loved his courgette and pine nut muffins. And his combination of carrot, spinach and cumin didn’t disappoint! Savoury muffins are such as great finger food for little hands and mouths, and you really can pack them full of wonderfully nutritious vegetables.

Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall

Usually for me, savoury muffins just have to have some kind of cheese (is that just me?). Cheese makes pretty much everything taste better! Yet, amazingly, I didn’t miss the lack of cheese in these at all.

The only thing I’ve changed from Hugh’s original recipe is the amount of spinach. He uses 150g of spinach, while 100g was enough for me (and left me with spinach leaves to throw into other dishes for the rest of the week).

If it’s difficult finding the time to cook, try to toast the pumpkin seeds ahead of time, even the day before. If you don’t have pumpkin seeds (they add a fabulous extra texture to the muffins) you can use sunflower seeds or a mixture of the two (Hugh’s suggestion). You could also cook the onion mixture ahead of time.

The batter is quite a stiff mixture, but still produces lovely moist muffins which freeze wonderfully (great to have in the freezer to add to lunchboxes).

CARROT, SPINACH AND CUMIN MUFFINS

Prep time: 15 mins
Cook time: 18-20 mins
Makes 12
Freezable

80g unsalted butter, melted and cooled, plus extra 10g for frying
1 onion, finely diced
2 tsp ground cumin
100g spinach, tough stalks removed and very finely shredded
250g plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 1/2 tsp salt
2 eggs
275g whole milk yoghurt
150g carrots, grated
40g pumpkin seeds, toasted

Heat the oven to 200C and line a muffin tray with paper cases.

Warm the 10g of butter in a large frying pan and sautรฉ the onion with a pinch of salt until soft and translucent, about 10 minutes.

Add the cumin, stir for a minute, then add the spinach and stir until wilted and soft. Leave the mixture to cool.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and salt.

In a jug, whisk the cooled melted butter, eggs and yoghurt.

Pour the wet ingredients over the flour and stir with a spatula until just combined. Fold in the cooled onions and spinach, the grated carrot and seeds.

Spoon into the prepared cases and bake for about 18-20 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean.

Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall

How are you celebrating Baking Week?

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Savoury courgette and pine nut muffins

I’ve found muffins are a great way to get some extra vegetables into Nicholas’ diet. He can help me make them (which usually results in him eating more of them), they’re an easy-to-eat finger food (and very easy to pop into a lunchbox) and so wonderfully adaptable (you can pretty much throw in anything you have in the fridge!).

Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s courgette and pine nut muffins intrigued me when I came across them. He makes the point that these flavour combinations work well in a pasta dish and also work in a muffin, which makes my mind wander to other pasta flavours to experiment with in a muffin form. I was also curious to discover if the addition of some oats was noticeable in the end muffin (no, although I used normal-sized porridge oats rather than his suggested jumbo oats).

Amazingly for me I didn’t make any changes to Hugh’s original recipe. After tasting them I did wonder about leaving the sultanas out next time, but they do add a lovely burst of sweetness to the other savoury ingredients which I think little people (as well as big people) will like. The added texture of toasted pine nuts also works very well. I’ll be making them exactly the same from now on! Oh and I can confirm that they freeze well.

Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall

SAVOURY COURGETTE/ZUCCHINI AND PINE NUT MUFFINS

Prep time: 15 mins
Cook time: 18 mins
Makes 12
Freezable

200g plain flour
40g jumbo oats
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1-2 tsp flaky sea salt (depending on how salty your parmesan is – you can easily leave this out for toddlers)
A few grinds of black pepper
8 large basil leaves, shredded
60g parmesan, coarsely grated, plus another 20g or so to sprinkle on the top
2 eggs
250g whole milk yoghurt
4 tbsp olive or rapeseed oil
200g courgette/zucchini, coarsely grated
40g pine nuts, toasted
40g sultanas

Heat the oven to 200C and line a muffin tin with 12 paper cases.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, oats, baking powder, bicarb, salt, pepper, basil and parmesan.

In a separate smaller bowl (or jug), whisk together the eggs, yoghurt and oil, pour this over the dry ingredients and stir with a spatula until roughly combined – don’t overmix.

Add the courgette/zucchini, pine nuts and sultanas, and stir until just evenly distributed.

Spoon or scoop (using an ice cream scoop) the batter into the muffin tin and sprinkle over the rest of the parmesan.

Bake for about 18 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the middle of a muffin comes out clean.

Leave them to cool in the tin for a couple of minutes to firm up before transferring them to a cooling rack.

What other yummy pasta flavours do you think would work well in a muffin?

 

Beetroot, feta and thyme muffins

Beetroot is one of those vegetables I often think about using but never do. Perhaps it’s because growing up, beetroot only came from a can, precooked and sliced, its bright juice ready to stain as much clothing as possible on the way to your mouth. I was never a fan of its earthy flavour.

Well I can finally say I have cooked with it, although I took the easy option this time of buying it in a vacuum sealed pack already cooked (next time, next time). And I also managed to come out the other end stain-free!

Beetroot is a very good source of potassium and manganese, but while it’s very low in fat, it’s also high in natural sugars.

savoury beetroot, feta and thyme muffins

I paired the earthy flavour with feta and thyme for these savoury muffins. Feta and beetroot are a classic combination; goat’s cheese would also work well. I used a mixture of white and wholemeal flour, but you can certainly use just white flour if you prefer.

I was very happy to see my muffins still had a lovely pink hue on top when I took them from the oven (although you can’t really see that in my photos). But when I broke one apart, the inside was a normal muffin brown colour (can anyone enlighten me about this?).

BEETROOT, FETA AND THYME MUFFINS

Prep time: 15 mins
Cook time: 25-30 mins
Makes 12 regular-sized muffins

200g self-raising white flour
100g self-raising wholemeal flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
100g feta, crumbled or diced
1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves
200g cooked beetroot (1 large beetroot), finely grated
2 eggs, lightly beaten
210ml milk
90ml vegetable oil
1/2 tsp salt (optional)

Preheat the oven to 200C. Either lightly spray a 12-hole muffin tray with cooking spray or line with paper cases.

Mix the white and wholemeal flours, baking powder, feta and thyme in a large bowl.

In a separate bowl or jug, combine the grated beetroot, eggs, milk, oil and salt (if using). Add this to the flour mixture, mixing until just combined (mixing as little as possible keeps your muffins light in texture).

Divide the mixture evenly between the 12 muffin holes.

Bake for 25-30 minutes until cooked through when tested with a skewer.

Tip out onto a wire cooling rack.

Savoury beetroot, feta and thyme muffins

Variations:

  • use goat’s cheese instead of feta.
  • if you don’t have any fresh or dried thyme, substitute with chives or parsley.

Tip: to avoid getting beetroot juice all over your kitchen when grating it, put your grater into a good-sized bowl to catch the juice and wayward pieces as you grate.

 

Quiche muffins

Thinking of something light I could make for a friend dropping in for lunch that would also be fine for Nicholas, I remembered coming across a recipe for making mini quiches without pastry. For some strange reason I hadn’t saved it on my Pinterest cooking board, so I had to make it up. Thankfully not that difficult.

Instead of pastry, the muffin ‘cases’ are made with ham. One of those brilliant ideas you wonder why you never thought of it yourself. Even if you buy ready-made pastry you need to cut it out and prebake it just to make sure it cooks through. Not that I’m a lazy cook (well…) but I do love a super quick recipe that requires very little thinking. Also not having pastry means it’s great if you happen to be following the Dukan diet.

I tried using prosciutto for some and slices of peppered cooked ham for others. While the ham was yummy, the prosciutto was nicer because it crisps up, especially around the edges. If you use prosciutto, be careful not to add too much salt to the egg mixture as the prosciutto is salty.

Like traditional quiches you can really add almost anything you want. Fry up some onion and pop it in the bottom before you pour in the egg mixture, do they same with mushrooms or asparagus tips, add a slice of tomato or, my favourite, add a dollop of creme fraiche.

I have yet to master lining the cups so the egg mixture doesn’t run out (you can see in my photo that it looks more like the prosciutto is through the muffin rather than encasing it), but so long as you grease the cups beforehand and then run a knife around the edge after they’re done, it doesn’t really matter.

They’d be great in lunch boxes or to take on a picnic. I can also see them smaller as party finger food. Definitely versatile! I haven’t tried freezing them yet; they’d probably need a bit of time in the oven to crisp up after thawing.

QUICHE MUFFINS

Prep time: 10 mins
Cook time: 15-18 mins
Makes 6 large muffins

6 slices prosciutto (Parma ham)
6 eggs
2 tbsp milk
20g cheddar cheese, grated
Salt and pepper
Oil for greasing muffin tray

Preheat oven to 175C.

Lightly grease a 6-cup muffin tray and line each muffin cup with prosciutto.

Lightly beat the eggs and milk together and season. Pour evenly into each cup (don’t worry if it doesn’t seem enough mixture as it will rise as it cooks). Sprinkle over the grated cheese.

Cook for 15-18 mins until egg mixture has set.

Variations:

  • Add a dollop of creme fraiche to each cup before pouring in the egg mixture.
  • Put lightly fried onion in each cup before pouring in the egg mixture.
  • Add cooked mushroom or asparagus tips, or sliced tomato