It’s university exam number one tomorrow. That means at this point in time zilch brain power remains. Coherent sentences…what are they again? I was trawling through my rapidly dwindling ‘back up collection’ and came across this from mid-last year. Clearly it had been left, abandoned, in the depths of the folder due to a) the terrible photos and b) the slightly mortifying writing skills. Now, I began to touch up both and then stopped. Isn’t there something quite grounding about acknowledging that you’ve produced a work/done something that wasn’t quite perfect? And about leaving it that way. Not beating yourself up about it. To remember that life’s about balance, not perfection. To have a laugh about it if you can (and hope to god things have improved somewhat since then) and move on. Here is one such example, ‘not-so-pretty’ bits and all.
So I’m trying to avoid raving about every recipe I post – I definitely don’t want to create the impression that everything I cook suddenly becomes an “oh-my-gosh-its-my-new-favourite dish!!!!” kind of thing. That’s not the case. Ahem. Well sometimes it is. Take these cheesy chilli onion muffins for example. For many many years no where near enough appreciation was given to the humble savoury muffin. And then one day the light bulb clicked. Why, not only do they taste pretty good (that does depend on the particular muffin of course) but they open up a whole new realm of baking! I envisaged myself making savoury muffins for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Perhaps a batch of sweet ones for pudding such as these or these, just to you know, round things off nicely. It would be muffin mania! Sorry, it had to be said.
These cheesy rounds of goodness do take more effort than your standard all-in-one muffin – there’s the cooking of the shallots and so forth – however your efforts will be rewarded. Yeah, yeah it’s a typical ‘puh-lease cook it anyway’ comment but I do try to use them sparingly. Honest. Furthermore, they freeze exceptionally well. I’d advise setting aside an hour or two to whip up a double (or even triple) batch to keep in the freezer as emergency supplies. Served with a side salad they create a substantial lunch. Alternatively eat them warm as a mid-morning/afternoon snack, slathered with creamy butter if you’re feeling extra indulgent. Have an early start? Pack a few and eat ’em on the way – they travel far better than some of their sweet counterparts due to their sturdier, denser crumb.
And wait a sec, there’s more selling points to come! They’re also amenable to variations – try adding a tablespoon of chopped sundried tomatoes, interchanging the parsley for another herb or using spring onions rather than shallots if you’re pressed for time (as long as they’re chopped finely, you don’t need to cook them). Don’t fancy spice? Omit the cayenne pepper. Have a penchant for strong cheese? Sub some of the vintage cheddar with parmesan. Don’t like strong cheese? Give the good ol’ mozzarella or creamy colby a whizz.
Still not a savoury muffin convert? Consider them as a cheese sandwich, only with the cheese incorporated into it and, well, more muffiny in texture. Hmm that doesn’t really do them justice, does it? And to be honest the photo’s really don’t either…you’ll have to trust me on this one!
Cheesy Chilli Onion Muffins
Makes 12 muffins.
100g wholemeal flour
175g plain white flour
3 tsps baking powder
½ tsp salt
Pinch cayenne pepper
¼ tsp dry mustard
1 tbsp sugar
3 eggs, beaten
150g vintage cheddar, finely grated
2 French shallots, finely chopped
1 tsp olive oil
1 tbsp parsley, finely chopped
Little extra cheese for topping
Preheat oven to 190C. Grease a 12 hole 1/3 cup capacity muffin tin.
Heat oil in a small fry pan over a low heat and sweat shallots until soft. Remove from heat, transfer to a bowl and leave to cool.
Melt butter gently, either in a small pot or in the microwave. Leave to cool slightly (if it is too hot it will curdle the eggs).
Sift flours, baking powder, salt, cayenne pepper and mustard into a large bowl. Stir through sugar.
Combine grated cheese and parsley with shallots and stir through dry mixture, breaking up any clumps of cheese that may have formed.
In another bowl whisk together eggs and milk, then add the melted butter.
Create a well in the centre of the dry ingredients and slowly pour in the liquid mixture. Use a spatula or large metal spoon to gently fold the liquid through until they just come together and there are no pockets of flour. Don’t over mix – beating will lose air. It doesn’t matter if there are a few lumps here and there.
Spoon into the greased muffin pan (the mixture should almost completely fill each hole). Sprinkle a little extra grated cheese on top.
Bake for 20-23 minutes or until nicely risen, golden brown and firm to touch.
Cool in pan for 2 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool further.
Source: Inspired by recipe from Sam Stern’s Get Cooking.