The Musette: muffins

This is my trusty go-to recipe whenever I need to whip up a few (or more) muffins. It’s an incredibly forgiving recipe as the batter will last for 30 days in the fridge. Trust me, I’ve tried it and the last muffin is just as good as the first which is great if you only want to bake a few each time. It’s based on a recipe from Rachel Allen.These make both a great breakfast or a mid-ride refuel.

Ingredients (makes 18 muffins)

  • 3 large organic eggs (approx 45g [1⅔oz], without shells)
  • 225g (2½ cups) soft brown, raw or coconut sugar
  • 500ml (2 cups) buttermilk or plantmilk with a dash of cider vinegar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 125ml (½ cup) vegetable oil
  • 485g (5 cups) wholemeal spelt flour
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 2½ tsp bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)

Your starter for delicious muffins

Your starter for delicious muffins

Method

1. Pre-heat the oven to 180ºC/160ºC fan/gas mark 4 (350ºF/320ºF fan).

2. Take a pastry brush, dip it in vegetable oil and gently paint it all over the muffin tin. This will stop the muffins sticking to the tin if you’re not using muffin cases. If you are, place the cases in the tin(s). I make my own muffin cases from squares of greaseproof paper. (I explain how in my ‘handy hints’ section.)

3. Put the sugar and eggs into a large bowl and whisk to combine until air bubbles appear on the surface of the mixture.

4. Add the buttermilk, oil and vanilla and whisk again.

5. Sift and mix together the flour, salt and bicarbonate of soda adding back the bran from the flour which will collect in the sieve.

6. Add the dry ingredients to the wet and lightly combine. I find using a rubber spatula in a figure-of-eight movement works best. Ensure that no pockets of flour remain but don’t worry if the batter’s a bit lumpy. Lumpy batter makes light muffins. You now have your basic batter mix to which all manner of yummy ingredients can be added. See Sheree’s Handy Hints below.

7. Pour the mixture into a jug and fill the muffin cases ⅔ full, ensuring that you have equal amounts of batter in each case. Bake in the oven for 15-25 minutes (depending on the size of your muffin tin) or until soft and springy to the touch. Cool on a wire rack and then enjoy!

8. The muffins will keep in an air-tight container for 3-4 days, but they never seem to hang around that long.

9. Leave any unused batter in a jug in the fridge. Place clingfilm (plastic wrap) directly onto the surface of the batter to prevent a skin from forming.

A selection of muffins: here one minute, gone the next!

A selection of muffins: here one minute, gone the next!

Sheree’s Handy Hints

1. All ingredients should be at room temperature.

2. When I’m baking I always use a timer as it’s so easy to lose track of time. Once you’ve put the muffins in the oven, put the timer on for five minutes less than they should take to cook and then check regularly.

3. You can slightly under-bake small cakes as they’ll continue cooking for a few minutes after they come out of the oven.

4. Variations: Take 400ml (14fl oz), approx ⅓ of the basic batter – enough for six muffins – and add the following ingredients:

Fruit and nut

  • 100g (3½oz) raisins
  • 75g (3oz) apple puree
  • 75g (3oz) finely chopped, cored and peeled eating apple
  • 50g (2oz) chopped toasted walnuts
  • 1 tsp cinnamon or mixed spice (optional)
  • 1 tsp grated lemon zest (optional)

Blueberry

  • 100g (3½oz) fresh blueberries
  • 1 tsp grated lemon zest

Carrot, apple and ginger

  • 75g (3oz) apple puree
  • 75g (3oz) finely chopped, cored and peeled eating apple
  • 100g (3½oz/1 cup) grated carrot
  • 1 tsp of ginger juice squeezed from a piece of fresh ginger

Banana and chocolate

  • 100g (3½oz) peeled and mashed very ripe banana
  • 100g white chocolate pellets, but you could also use either dark or milk chocolate
  • 75ml (2½fl oz) maple syrup

Strawberry and white chocolate

  • 100g (3½oz) firm strawberries, hulled and chopped into small pieces
  • 100g white chocolate pellets
  • 1 tsp of grated orange zest

Let your imagination run riot! Combine tastes and textures which you know go well together and, if necessary, add additional liquid in the form of dairy, fruit juice or maple syrup to maintain a soft pouring consistency.

5. Make your own muffin cases by cutting 15cm (6 inches) square pieces of greaseproof paper and put four into each muffin moulds. Push well down, pleating the sides and leave overnight to set.

The Musette: apple pie spiced porridge

I’m trying to wean my beloved away from his usual breakfast (yoghurt on granola, followed by marmalade on toast) and getting him to eat more oats and eggs, though not necessarily together! Aside from preparing for him the usual array of eggs poached, fried, boiled, scrambled or in an omelette, frittata or tortilla, I’ve been trying to jazz up porridge, preparing something we can both eat.

He generally prefers porridge made with milk topped with sliced bananas, a dollop of cream and maple syrup. This is a much healthier iteration and doesn’t require me to stand at the stove stirring. I can prepare it all the night before and then just pop it into the oven in the morning. Better still, this scales up nicely if I’m feeding a crowd and, if I’ve made too much, will happily re-heat the following day.

Ingredients (enough for 3 hungry cyclists for breakfast)

  • 120g (1 cup)  jumbo rolled oats
  • 250ml (1 cup) boiling filtered water
  • 1tsp ground cinnamon
  • Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
  • Pinch of ground allspice
  • 2 eating apples, cored, cut into chunks and cooked with a little honey
  • 1 ripe mashed banana
  • 80g (1/2 cup) raisins
  • 65ml (1/4 cup) unsweetened almond milk
  • 2tbsp maple syrup (optional)
  • handful of toasted nuts such as walnuts, almond or hazelnuts (optional)
  • 1/2tsp sea salt

Method

1. Pre-heat the oven to 180ºC/160ºC fan/gas mark 4 (350ºF/320ºF fan).

2. Put the oats into a bowl and pour over the hot water which should cover the oats. Let it stand for at least 10 minutes.

3. Now add all of the remaining ingredients, mix well and pour into a baking dish. Level the top.

4. Bake for approx. 30 minutes, or until golden brown.

5. To serve, spoon into warmed bowls and, if you like top with further cooked apple chunks or banana and (more) maple syrup.

Sheree’s Handy Hints

1. This tastes better than it looks. Mine’s brown because I used apples I’d cooked earlier in vanilla and chestnut honey. Obviously, cook the apples in maple syrup or with a little raw cane sugar to “keep” it vegan.

2. Of course, you can add any fruit you like to this baked porridge dish. I’ve previously made this with apricots and with plums though again, I prefer to poach the fruit beforehand. Consequently, I keep the 2 tbsp maple syrup to pour on afterwards. But then I don’t have a particularly sweet tooth. Like lots of dishes, it’s all according to taste.

The Musette: spiced rice pudding

If I have a flat full of cyclists, or indeed guests, you’ll generally find a large bowl of home-made rice pudding in my fridge. It’s instant comfort food which can easily double as a quick and nourishing breakfast before a long ride. Pretty much everyone loves it because it evokes fond childhood memories. My husband claims it’s one of the few dishes his mother used to cook well. Frankly I doubt it as, like cigarettes, the outlaw’s cooking carries a government health warning!

I don’t like a skin on my rice pudding. I cook it on the top of the stove and I eat it cold, often with compote of spiced fruit. This particular recipe came about a few summers’ ago when I trained at altitude with some cycling friends who (like me) had sworn off milk, cream and white sugar.

Ingredients (serves eight hungry cyclists)

  • 1 litre (4 cups) rice or oat milk
  • 500ml (2 cups) coconut milk
  • 1 fat vanilla pod, split lengthways
  • 1 medium-sized cinnamon stick
  • 1 star anise
  • a pinch of sea salt
  • 150g (1 cup) short whole grain pudding rice
  • 3 tbsp of rice or date or maple syrup

Method

1. Warm the milk, vanilla pod and seeds, star anise and cinnamon stick in a saucepan over a low heat until simmering. This helps infuse the flavours.

2. Add the rice which you’ve pre-rinsed under a hot-water tap and continue cooking, stirring from time to time until the rice is tender. I find this takes anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour. Remove from the heat.

3. Warning: don’t be put off by the putty-coloured and thick wall-paper paste consistency of the pudding.

4. Gently stir in the coconut milk to restore the pudding to a creamy colour and runny consistency. Add the syrup and the pinch of salt, stir to dissolve and check the sweetness. I do not have an overly sweet tooth, so you may wish to add more syrup, but do so in teaspoons rather than tablespoons.

5. Pour the rice into a serving bowl. Cover the surface with cling film (plastic wrap) and leave to cool. Do not remove any of the flavourings as they will continue to infuse the rice with their heady perfumes. When cool, put in the fridge. The pudding will thicken to the right consistency.

6. To serve, remove from the fridge and allow to come to room temperature. Remove the flavourings and serve either on its own or with a fruit compote (see recipe below in Sheree’s Handy Hints).

Sheree’s Handy Hints

 1. A more traditional rice pudding can be made in exactly the same fashion by substituting the rice milk with full-fat milk, the coconut milk with single cream, the rice syrup with 6 tbsp of caster sugar and retaining just the fat vanilla pod and seeds for flavouring. I generally work using the proportion of 150g (1 cup) of rice per 1½ litres of liquid (6 cups). Of course, it can be served either hot or cold.

2. I have also made the dessert using almond milk and soya milk but was less keen on the overall taste, preferring to use unsweetened rice or oat milk for the lactose–free version.

3. For a more Spanish take on the dessert, rather than the vanilla pod, use two sticks of cinnamon and a single large piece of lemon zest for flavouring. Serve the pudding cold with a dusting of cinnamon powder.

4. For the spiced plum compote, take 2-3 ripe, juicy black plums, quarter and remove stones. Simmer gently in a saucepan with a star anise and one cinnamon stick in either a few tablespoons of water or some plum vodka – I have a store cupboard full of all manner of alcoholic beverages which only get used for cooking – just until the plums soften and give up their juices. Sweeten as necessary with your sweetener of choice. I will generally use 1 tbsp of runny honey. Serve cold on the side with the rice pudding.

4. I have also served the lactose-free rice pudding recipe above decorated with toasted shredded coconut and with chopped fresh mangoes on the side.

5. There are a few more iterations that I have successfully tried with the traditional milk rice pudding.

  • A sinful adult version with the addition of a handful of raisins soaked in warm rum before the pudding is left to cool.
  • A more child-friendly version with the addition of 200g of dark melted chocolate.  Though, to be honest, plenty of adults enjoyed this too.

The Musette: sourdough pancakes

Sourdough starter is easily made — all you need to do is whisk together some flour and water — and its benefits are many. Not only does it give baked goods, from breads to pancakes to waffles to muffins and everything in between, great flavour and texture, it’s also really good for you because of its amazing probiotic benefits.

So, I have my sourdough starter from which I’ve made bread, pizza and focaccia, now what? Breakfast pancakes! These are US style rather than French crepes and are fluffy and melt-in-the-mouth awesome. My beloved and I have become instant converts. This recipe is perfect for a big crowd — you can just pop one or two large pancakes into the oven to feed everyone together, rather than slaving over a hot stove making them one by one.

I like to serve them at week-ends so these vegan, sourdough, pancakes with fresh seasonal fruit get your Saturday or Sunday off to a perfect start.

Ingredients (serves 8 hungry cyclists)

Sponge

  • 265g (1 cup) sourdough starter
  • 250g (2 cups) plain (all-purpose) flour (you can use plain, whole wheat or a mixture of half and half)
  • 1 tbsp raw sugar
  • 500ml (2 cups) almond or any non-dairy milk
  • 2 tsp apple cider vinegar

Pancakes

  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)
  • 95g (1/4 cup) apple sauce
  • 3 chia or flax eggs (3 tbsp chia/flaxmeal whisked with 9 tbsp water)
  • 4 ripe eating apples (or equivalent in pears, plums, nectarines, peaches) sliced
  • 1 tbsp coconut nectar
  • 1 tbsp calvados or white wine
  • I vanilla pod

Method

1. Make the sourdough sponge the previous evening by mixing in a large bowl the sourdough starter with the flour, sugar, almond milk and apple cider vinegar.

2. Cover with cling film (plastic wrap) and allow the batter to stand overnight in a warm spot. In the morning, it should be puffy and visibly bubbly.

4. Before making the pancake(s), preheat the oven to 230 ̊C/210 ̊C fan/450 ̊F/gas Mark 8.

5. Add the bicarb (baking soda), applesauce and chia/flax eggs to the sourdough sponge and mix thoroughly but gently.

6. Heat an oven-safe frying pan on the hob (stovetop) add sliced fruit, coconut nectar, seeds from vanilla pod and alcohol. Cook gently until fruit softens, and all the liquid is gone. Turn off the heat and remove half of the fruit (for the second pancake) and arrange the remainder to cover bottom of the pan.

7. Pour half the pancake batter over the fruit. Immediately place the pan in the oven and bake for 20 minutes or until the pancake appears golden-brown and the sides are pulling away from the pan.

8. Flip the pancake upside down onto a plate and cover with aluminium foil to keep warm. Repeat the process one more time to make the second pancake.

9. Serve the pancakes warm with maple syrup or anything else your heart desires!

10. Any uneaten pancake – as if! – can be stored in the fridge for a couple of days. You can either reheat or eat cold.

Holiday photos: day 26

My beloved was due back from his business trip late on Saturday evening. I was just about  to go out, having wrapped up reviewing the day’s stage for VeloVoices, when my phone rang. It was my beloved who had missed his connecting flight from Madrid to San Sebastian due to the late arrival of his inbound flight from Heathrow. He’d be back around midday on Sunday.

While he’s been away I’ve been enjoying the jazz festival.  Mornings I head for my morning walk along the beach before going to my favourite breakfast spot, to order an americano y tostada con tomate, the latter comes with olive oil, salt and a raw tomato paste (header photo of my DIY version). It’s delish and has replaced my usual avocado on toast. I sit outside and listen to the band playing in the San Martin market. They don’t appear to be part of the Festival, I think they’ve just jumped on the bandwagon.

Breakfast over, I head to La Brexia market for fresh fruit, salad stuff and olives before wending my way back to the flat, again via the beach. And no, before you ask, the shins still haven’t tanned! Afternoons have been taken up with watching the Tour de France and the European Water Polo Championships.

Most evenings I’ve walked along  the seafront, sat on a bench in the park opposite the Town Hall and listened to whoever’s been playing on the stage there. Some evenings I’ve treated myself to a sorbet from my favourite ice cream shop, other times just some water from the Heineken stand – the Jazz Festival is sponsored by Heineken.

If the music hasn’t been to my taste, I’ve continued my pursuit of the best Aperol Spritz in town. When it comes to bars, I look carefully at its clientele. San Sebastián has loads of elderly – as in much older than me – chic ladies, probably widows. They tend to gather in groups in the evening to enjoy a chat and a cocktail or two with a pintxos or two. If there’s plenty of glamorous grannies, I’ll go inside or sit outside. I now have further contenders for the prize and will allow my beloved to have the casting vote, something he rarely enjoys.

 

Vegan Shrove Tuesday

Just because I can’t have dairy or eggs doesn’t mean I can’t have pancakes on Shrove Tuesday, or any other day for that matter. I woke up this morning to find it grey, overcast and wet, not what I ordered. So, after a quick session on the home trainer in lieu of my morning ride, I made pancakes for breakfast and the world immediately seemed a better place – the power of food!

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Ingredients (makes 9 pancakes, serves 3 greedy cyclists)

  • 1 tbsp chia (or flax) seeds
  • 1 tbsp coconut oil (melted)
  • 250ml unsweetened almond milk
  • 1 tsp cider vinegar
  • 125g wholemeal flour
  • 1 tsp unrefined or coconut sugar
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ¼ tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • pinch of sea salt

Method

1. Whisk together the chia seeds with 2½ tbsp of cold water, then set aside to thicken.

2. Combine the almond milk and cider vinegar, add the melted coconut oil, then whisk in the chia seed mixture.

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3. Sift and combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and salt, then make a well in the middle. Gradually pour in the wet mixture, stirring continuously until combined. Don’t worry about a few lumps. Set aside for -10 minutes.

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4. Turn oven on low. Heat a tiny amount of coconut oil in a large frying pan over a medium heat, or like me use a non stick pan without addition of further fat. Add a small ladleful of the batter per pancake to the pan, you’re aiming for a scotch pancake size, then add more ladlefuls of the batter, ensuring they’re nicely spaced out. You’ll need to do this in batches.

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Ready to flip
Ready to flip

5. Cook for around 2 minutes, or until golden underneath and little bubbles start to appear on the surface – a bit like a pikelet. Then use a palette knife to flip them over. Cook for a further 2 minutes, or until golden. Place in the oven to keep warm while you make the remaining pancakes.

With homemade apricot compote, not much of a contrast in colour but it tasted sooo good.
With homemade apricot compote, not much of a contrast in colour but it tasted sooo good.

6. Serve with a dollop of coconut yoghurt, a drizzle of maple syrup, a spoonful of fresh fruit or fruit compote, or all of them if your heart so desires and enjoy!

Sheree’s Handy Hints

1. You can grind the chia or flax seeds beforehand for a smoother batter if you prefer, but I don’t mind leaving them whole.

2. You can add flavourings, such as cinnamon or vanilla essence, to the batter. Probably no more than 1/2tsp.

3. You can use any kind of milk, I just prefer unsweetened almond. If you use a sweetened milk, omit the tablespoon of sugar.

4. Just before you turn the pancakes for the first time, you can add fresh or dried fruit to taste – banana, raisins, blueberries, strawberries, apples – to the batter.

 

The Musette: Turmeric Oat Pancakes

My beloved and I generally go for longer rides at the week-end, calling for a more substantial pre-ride breakfast. I haven’t made him pancakes for a while but I recently found a recipe for Turmeric Pancakes. Yes, I know that doesn’t sound terribly inviting but they were surprisingly fluffy and delicious. They also ensured I had my daily dose of turmeric.

Ingredients (makes 4-6 pancakes)

  • 150g oat flour (just grind oats in food processor)
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened apple puree
  • 100ml non-dairy unsweetened milk (I used almond)
  • 2 tbsp of maple syrup
  • 1 tsp of cinnamon
  • 1 tsp of ground turmeric
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 heaped tsp baking powder
  • Pinch of fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Method

1. Preheat heavy bottomed non-stick pan or grill.

2. Combine everything in a food processor. It should take no longer than 30 secs and the texture should be similar to softly dropping cake batter.

pancake1

3. Portion batter into equally sized portions (4 or 6) using an ice cream scoop, or something similar, and plop onto cooking surface. They should take 2-3 minutes to cook on each side, just flip with a fish slice.

4. Serve with whatever takes your fancy: non-dairy yoghurt, maple syrup, fresh fruit or, in my beloved’s case, crispy smoked bacon and maple syrup!