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!

 

The Most Versatile Bread Dough

There is no doubt that being a parent reduces the amount of time you can spend in the kitchen. I like to get Will involved in cooking where possible but at 10 months old  what he can safely do is rather limited. He is pulling himself up on all the furniture at the moment and we have stone floors so I’m terrified of him hurting himself! I am wondering about buying a playpen so I can pop him somewhere and know he is safe. Regardless of his new  found independence,  I still believe its important for him to get used to spending time in the kitchen. I have found that his highchair is a great place for him to sit and observe what is going on; he is high enough to see the worktops. I tend to give him kitchen implements to play with as I cook – he adores silicone baking trays, the sieve and  wooden spoons! If this fails there is always food- a strawberry tends to keep him happy for 5 minutes or so! Bread making is, as cooking goes, rather baby friendly as it only really takes 15 minutes at a time, which even the most impatient little one should hopefully sit through. This dough in particular is a fantastic thing to make as from one batch you can make a whole variety of bread-types! I have used it to make pizza bases, pitta breads, flatbreads, bread rolls and even bread sticks. I have reduced the salt as much as is possible to ensure it is suitable for little ones, and because of the flours used it requires no sugar.

Ingredients

  • 200g wholewheat strong flour
  • 50g strong white flour
  • 250g plain white flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1tsp yeast
  • 20ml virgin olive oil  plus a little extra for the proving bowl
  • 340ml of warm water (could be more or less depending on the weather that day)

Method

  • Add the flours, yeast and oil to a large bowl
  • Add the salt to a well in the flour, ensuring it is kept away from the yeast
  • Add some of the water and combine, keep adding water until you have a slightly sticky dough. It is meant to be more hydrated than a traditional bread dough but this is correct, it becomes less so as its kneaded.
  • Knead for 10-15 minutes by hand or 15 minutes in a mixer. The dough should be springy and stretch-able.
  • Oil the mixing bowl, and place the dough in the bowl, covering with cling film or a damp tea towel.
  • Leave somewhere warm for 1 1/2 hours or until its doubled in size, it may take 2 hours

At this stage you can make different things:

Bread Rolls

This recipe makes 8-9 bread rolls

  • Roll fist-size balls of dough and place on a baking tray, let them prove until they have doubled in size again; this will take 45 minutes or so.
  • Bake in a pre heated oven for 12-15 minutes until they are golden and have a hollow sound
  • To add a crusty top sprinkle a little water on each one directly before popping them in the oven

Flat breads

This recipe makes 10 flatbreads

  • Take a fist-size ball of dough and flatten out on a floured surface until they are around 3 mm thick.
  • Leave to rest for 10 minutes
  • Get a frying pan as hot as you can (open the windows!)
  • Lay one flat bread in to the hot pan and cook on one side for around 2 minutes or until it is bubbling up and browning. They will get a little scorched but it tastes wonderful
  • Flip and cook the other side for a further minute
  • These can be eaten straight away or left to cool under a tea towel. The tea towel ensures the steam circulates around the flatbreads and keeps them soft.

Pittas

This recipe makes 12-14 pittas

  • Follow the flatbread method but make them slightly smaller and oval shaped.
  • Place them on a baking tray and cook in a preheated oven at 200C for 5-10 minutes until they are puffed up and gaining a little colour.

Bread Sticks

These are a real favourite in our house! Brilliant with dips and great for teething babies to gnaw on.

  • Roll out small balls of dough, about the size of a strawberry
  • Roll these out until you have long breadsticks
  • Place on a floured baking tray and leave to rest for 5 minutes
  • Cook in a preheated oven at 200C for about 10 minutes until they are crisp and golden

This dough really is a’jack of all trades’. I often double the quantity and make a few things in one go, today I made some rolls for lunch and some flatbreads for supper. I added some cumin seeds and nigella seeds to the flatbreads when I shaped them to add a little Middle-Eastern influence as they are accompanying a tagine. As with all home-made bread, because there are no nasty preservatives it doesn’t last as long as shop-bought alternatives, but the taste is so superior it won’t last long enough to go stale anyway!

I’d love to hear from you if you try the recipe, Happy baking!