Carrot and Spinach Buttermilk Muffins

I started writing this blog post this morning, Will woke up at an eye-watering 5am so I had some time before breakfast! Anyway, I then found another million things to do so thought I would leave writing until later in the day. One of today’s tasks was the weekly shop. I’ve done a lot of online food shopping since having Will but I must admit I don’t like it. I like the convenience, but I absolutely hate having no control of which food is chosen for me. I’m normally the person who picks up every single watermelon in the shop before deciding that the very first one I looked at was in fact, just fine! Shopping with Will has become a bit of a breeze recently though as he is happy to sit in the trolly, eating and nosing his way around the shop! I tend to take him a piece of fruit to eat en-route. Once home, with Will napping I decided to sit down to write a little more. I made myself a cup of tea, sat down at my desk and went to tuck my chair in. In doing so I happened to notice my feet, and it was at this precise moment that I realised I had gone all around town and to the supermarket in ODD SHOES! They didn’t even nearly resemble a pair! I think its fair to say that early mornings coupled with moving house and finishing maternity leave is starting to take its toll… on my wardrobe choices if nothing else! Thankfully I’m not making such mistakes in the kitchen!

I’ve been frantically filling my freezer with food so that when we begin moving house lunches and supper will be taken care of. Snacks and meals that can be eaten hot or cold, at any time of day are going to be a necessity over the next few weeks, especially as the house we are moving into is still derelict, and I go back to work next week! This recipe is something I make quite often, we have them as snacks, with big bowls of soup or as an alternative to bread.

Savoury muffins are something I never really enjoyed; I found most recipes came out heavy, ‘healthy tasting’ (code for dull) and with a chewy, often unpleasant texture. I then came across a  recipe that used buttermilk and I decided to experiment. The following is the result of a few months experimenting with different flavours. These are delicious, delicately spiced with cumin and coriander, but not overpoweringly so. The recipe looks like it contains lots of raising agents, and to be fair it does, but the resulting muffin is light, fluffy and not at all greasy like shop-bought sweet muffins can be.

The key with this recipe, as with soda bread, is to act quickly once you have added the buttermilk into the batter. The buttermilk is added last and the muffins will be lightest and most fluffy if they get into the oven as quickly as possible, no pressure! I’ve probably made the recipe sound scary now, but they are incredibly easy to make.

The vegetables can be swapped for alternatives such as butternut squash, Kale, courgette or sweet potato, or anything else you fancy/have to hand. It goes without saying that these are an excellent way of sneaking vegetables into fussy children. More than this though, they are actually a brilliant way of celebrating just how delicious vegetables can be! Savoury muffins are also a great food to give when weaning as the texture is softer and more moist than bread. Will has them along side soup to dunk, or just with some cheese for a simple, quick lunch.

Ingredients

This makes 12 generous muffins

  • 250g Wholemeal self raising flour
  • 80g unsalted butter (salted is fine too if not cooking for little ones)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 200ml buttermilk
  • 150g of grated carrot (roughly 3 medium carrots)
  • 1 small red onion, diced
  • 2 large handfuls of spinach
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp ground coriander

Method

  • Melt the butter un the microwave, add a tablespoon of it to a frying pan and pour the rest into a large mixing bowl
  • Peel and dice an onion, add this to the frying pan and soften in the butter.
  • Once the onion is soft add the cumin and coriander, switch the heat off and let the spices warm through
  • To the bowl of melted butter add the flour, eggs, baking powder and bicarb, mix to combine
  • Peel and grate the carrot
  • Chop your raw spinach finely
  • Add the carrot, softened onion and spinach to the other ingredients and combine
  • Finally pour in the buttermilk, combine quickly and spoon into muffin cases as efficiently as you can. The mixture will start to foam and become light and airy as soon as the buttermilk and bicarb react.
  • Bake for 17-20 minutes, until golden and hollow sounding when the bases are tapped.

These keep for 5 days in a sealed container but they freeze well too. I have a freezer full of them now for Will’s packed lunch, and my own!

Apple Crumble Bites 

Will was born last summer and this meant I started weaning him in January- the 25th of January to be exact. Someone bought us a baby record book and I have thanked them so many times as I have written so much down that I would otherwise have forgotten in my sleep-deprived new Mum fog! I loved the process of introducing him to food, both as purees and finger foods, but I really struggled with fruit. Winter fruit in Britain is awful, or I should say winter fruit in Britain that babies can eat is awful! I tried, on a number of occasions to buy melons or strawberries but buying these fruits out of season is a futile exercise – they tasted of swede! It seemed that the only fruits on his menu for the first month or two were apples, pears and dried fruits such as figs, prunes and apricots.

The other problem with winter fruit is that its not that suitable to eat as finger food. On numerous occasions I bought pears that actually went off before they became soft enough for my little one to gum, and raw apples were definitely not going to be suitable. Inspiration finally struck when I was making a crumble for a family lunch. It occurred to me that aside from at the sugar that most crumbles are filled with, it was a pretty baby-friendly pudding. I decided to deconstruct it and these apple crumble bites were the outcome.

The apple is baked and therefore soft enough for young babies to gum or chew, whilst the crumble coating is sugar free yet delicious and turns the humble apple chunk into a really tasty pudding or snack. These have now become a staple make in my kitchen. I offer them to Will on their own, or as an edible spoon with a yoghurt or fruit puree dip. My husband and I enjoy them with yoghurt and maple syrup, on top of rice pudding (amazing) or even with a bowl of warm custard! They are lovely warm or cold and keep well in the fridge for 48 hours.

The ingredients you need are limited, they are fast to make and healthy. They also increase the nutrient and calorie content of fruit for your little one- always good as they need plenty to keep them growing!

 

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Ingredients

  • 2 Tbsps rolled oats
  • 2 Tbsp ground almonds
  • 1 tsp cinnamon (or to taste, you could also use ginger)
  • 2 apples

 

Method

  • Peel and core 2 apples and chop each apple into 6 chunks
  • Place in an oven tray and pop in a preheated oven at 180c
  • In a small bowl combine the oats, ground almonds and cinnamon
  • After 5 minutes pull the apple out of the oven- it should be warmed through and ever so slightly damp, this will ensure the dry ingredients stick to it.
  • Ensuring the apple isn’t too hot to touch, coat each slice in the dry ingredients and place on a lined baking tray or a cupcake tray.
  • Bake at 180c for 15 minutes until the apple feels soft and the crumble coating is golden.img_6236

 Now that summer fruit is available I have been making these less. But I made them again the other day as the weather has turned really damp and grey here and we were all in need of something cozy for brunch. I fell in love with them all over again and had to share them with you.

What are your favourite ways to use apples? I’d love to hear!

 

Wholemeal Loaf

My first job was at a hotel and restaurant in a local village. I was employed there to work at the reception desk in the mornings. One morning I arrived to find the head chef having a blazing row with the owner as the breakfast chef had walked out. The owner, in a bid to calm down the chef volunteered me to help in the kitchen. I was terrified as I hadn’t ever set foot in a professional kitchen and the restaurant was chasing a Michelin star. I was taken to a blisteringly hot corner, shown an enormous mixer on the floor and told to make bread; 20 loaves of bread to be exact! To cut a long story short, my terror turned very quickly to enjoyment and 10 years later I still love making bread.

Bread-baking lends itself brilliantly to life with a baby. Although it takes a while to make, the work isn’t constant. You can spend 10 minutes with it and then walk away for an hour. The taste of homemade bread is unlike anything you can buy pre-sliced, and it contains far less ingredients. I checked a loaf of supermarket wholemeal bread yesterday and it contained 22 ingredients, including more sugar and salt than I am happy to feed Will. I don’t pretend that he is never exposed to sugar or salt, he is. But as far as possible I try to limit these, frankly unnecessary ingredients.

This wholemeal loaf recipe contains six ingredients and absolutely no nasties. It is a modified version of the recipe I used to follow before I became a Mum. This one has as little salt as possible (you need some for flavour and to inhibit the yeast). The same goes for the sugar content; I use light brown sugar as it is less refined than white sugar, and I have reduced the quantity as much as possible. It is a wonderful ‘every day’ bread with a great texture and a lovely taste. I do use a mixture of wholemeal and white bread flour to make the texture soft enough for little mouths.

Ingredients

  • 400g Strong wholemeal flour
  • 100g Strong white bread flour
  • 1tsp salt
  • 2tsp fast acting yeast
  • 10g light brown sugar
  • 30ml olive oil plus a little extra for your proving bowl
  • 310ml-330ml of water (the water quantity you need to make the dough will vary depending on the day, on a wet day you will need less water than a hot dry day. Be led by the dough and stop adding water when it holds together as a nice ball of dough

Method

  • Weigh your flour and add to a large bowl
  • Add the salt, yeast and sugar ensuring the yeast and salt are kept apart
  • stir the dry ingredients together and make a well
  • Add the oil and some water (around 50ml)
  • Start mixing by hand or if using a mixer with a dough hook, start mixer on low
  • slowly add water until the dough holds together and is play-dough like
  • knead for 10-15 minutes either in mixer or by hand until your dough is elastic, you want to be able to pull a section of it until it is thin enough to see through
  • At this stage grease your mixing bowl, place the dough back in it and loosely cover with cling film
  • Leave to prove somewhere warm if possible for an hour or longer, until the dough has doubled in size and bounces back if you push a finger into it
  • Knock the dough back for 5 minutes and shape your loaf, I tend to make this load round or oval.
  • If you want to have any pattern on the loaf use a serrated knife or a lame if you have one to cut the design into your loaf
  • Re-cover with the cling film loosely and put back somewhere warm for 30 minutes
  • Preheat oven to 200 C.
  • Put loaf in and bake for 30 minutes, the loaf should be a gorgeous brown and the bottom should feel hollow to tap.
  • Leave to cool on a wire rack, or enjoy a hot slice with lots of butter!

Your house will smell amazing as this cooks and it will keep (thanks to the addition of the olive oil) for at least 3 days, not that it ever lasts that long in my house! This loaf has a nice crust but to make it a crisper crust spray some water into the oven to create steam when the loaf goes in.

It may seem time consuming but I promise its relatively low effort cooking and the reward you get it phenomenal. Once you start making bread you won’t be able to stop!