I don’t usually write up my cooking and baking endeavours. The Boy has stolen the apron in our house and doesn’t get excited about cooking unless you are reinventing the wheel every meal. I’m more particular about foods I like and particular dishes that I want to be ‘just so’ when I plan to eat them. This difference of opinion has led to a marked lack of enthusiasm in the kitchen on my part and a definite lack of cooking mojo.
I used to be quite keen to try out recipes and certainly keen to cook my favourite dishes (complete with correctly chopped vegetables) including forays into Japanese cooking trying to invoke the flavours remembered from my time living out there. And I was always far more likely to get baking whether it be the essential Sachertorte for birthday tea or some attempt at homemade bread.
But since moving to Scotland, whether it be down to living in other people’s kitchens or just being wrenched from kitchen to kitchen on a pretty much annual basis, I have just stopped cooking. Stopped baking. Stopped even requesting the things I like to eat because it’s easier just to go along with what pleases other people. There is definitely a strand of laziness here but it’s a laziness connected to the fact that there’s no point slaving over a messy worktop if no one is even going to appreciate that the miso soup tastes just like Mama makes.
I also happen to have had a bit of a funny relationship to food over the past year or so having lost A LOT of weight first by doing the five two (really cannot say enough good things about this method of weight loss – nothing is ‘sinful’, no obfuscating and arcane points systems, just knowledge of what you are putting into your body and what that will do to you) and then by taking a job as a post-woman which has thrown the five two out the window but has kept the weight falling off despite the need to eat vast amounts. The five two really brought back my assertiveness about what I was eating – wait did you just put SUGAR in that sauce!?! – and the total calorie counted control on fast days mostly meant preparing for myself. But still no JOY in the food prep. And certainly no joy in making food for other people because again there’s this divide between food I want to eat and food for The Boy.
But this week I have been feeling the urge to take some control of the kitchen. I want to bake bread. I want to make soup. I want to make a tea-loaf. I want to eat something other than marmite oat cakes.
In order to regain my cooking mojo I need a recipe that cannot fail. I used to make these Lemon and Poppy Seed Muffins quite regularly when we lived in Warwickshire – the recipe being one I found online and cut and pasted into a word document for safekeeping. And it’s a good job I did because I followed the link back to the webpage and the recipe has been changed. This is completely baffling to me and so I thought I’d better write down my version of this recipe for safe keeping and so I can share it with people asking for the details.
Lemon and Poppy Seed Muffins
Makes 12 muffins.
Equipment: You’ll need a jam tart tray and silicon muffin cases (non-stick joy), electric whisk, fine grater, two mixing bowls, one measuring jug, lots of spoons.
2 cups (260 grams) plain flour
1-2 tablespoons poppy seeds (I like a LOT of poppy seeds)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup (113 grams) unsalted butter
1 cup (200 grams) granulated white sugar
2 large eggs
Zest of one lemon (unwaxed and well scrubbed!)
1 cup (240 ml) plain natural yogurt (or Greek style for extra creamy oomph)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Lemon curd (12 tsp) for secret gooey filling
1/2 cup (60 grams) icing sugar
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (from your previously zested lemon)
Preheat the oven to 200˚C. Line the tart tin with silicone muffin cases.
There are three parts to this recipe: dry ingredients, gooey ingredients, wet ingredients. I assemble them into two separate bowls and a measuring jug and then you’re ready to combine everything.
Dry bowl: mix together the 260g flour, baking powder, salt and poppy seeds evenly.
Wet jug: measure 240ml of yogurt and grate over the zest of your lemon and add a tsp of vanilla extract
Gooey bowl: this will be the main bowl for your mixture. Cream the butter and sugar using your electric whisk (you can try to do this with a fork or hand whisk but only if you have arms like Mrs Beaton or some serious pent up aggression). Add the eggs one at a time beating evenly with each addition.
Now add your wet jug ingredients to the gooey bowl and whisk to a smooth consistency.
Loosely stir in the dry bowl ingredients with a spoon until the flour is ‘just moist’. You don’t want to overmix. Rustic is good. These are muffins not fairy cakes.
Secret filling stage: I fill these with a teaspoon of lemon curd for a gooey lemon centre. First half fill each muffin case with the mixture using two spoons to scrape each other clean and direct the mixture more or less where you want it to go. Next spoon a smallish teaspoon of lemon curd into the centre of each muffin – don’t overfill or let the curd touch the casing or you will have exploding muffins. Spoon the rest of the mixture into the cases being careful to completely enclose your secret lemon goo surprise.
Bake in the middle of your pre-heated oven for 18-20 minutes. Obviously the lemon goo prevents you from doing a toothpick test but your muffins should be a lovely golden brown on top. Try having a go without the filling first if your oven is unpredictable. This is a HOT oven so you should get a crunchy outside and that yogurt mixture will bake up into a fairly heavy and very moist inside (although those poppy seeds should still CRUNCH! yum). These are robust muffins that you are totally allowed to eat for breakfast – they are not fluffy fairy cakes.
While your muffins are in the oven you can wash up your hundreds of bowls and spoons and then prepare the lemon glaze.
Lemon glaze: sift 60 grams of icing sugar into your (now sparkling) jug. Squeeze the juice from your lemon. Mix in the lemon juice using spoon/fork/hand whisk until smooth. Two table spoons should do it but I always get the balance wrong and my glaze is too runny, occasionally lumpy and a rather unsettling yellowy cream colour. It will still taste amazing. You could probably use a brush to apply the glaze but I usually just pour the stuff everywhere which makes for incredibly sticky muffin cases. I let the muffins cool in their silicone cases inside the tin so the excess glaze sort of pools at their feet rather than going all over the kitchen.
Once cooled, Enjoy! And it is totally obligatory to break them in two and go ooOoooOohhh at your beautiful lemon centres.
Bliss. Bread next…