I’ve got a little spring in my step today due to the bright blue sky outside of my window, as clear as any summer’s day with not a cloud in sight. We were blessed with the same weather yesterday when I ventured in to Bury St Edmund’s market, taking my little trusty camera with me, something which I am trying to get in the habit of doing.
I was not disappointed. The beautiful sunshine bathed the old market square in a crystal clear bright light, making all the colours of the fruit and vegetables shine and twinkle like edible jewels. People were actually smiling I noticed, a few kindly souls with happy faces openly remarked what a lovely day it was and all seemed right with the world. If only.
Bright greens of every hue, a whole spectrum of browns through to yellow, purples and of course the unmistakable crimson rhubarb. The intense red, positively glowing in the sunlight, lured me towards the market stall. Despite the fact this delicious, and in my opinion very underused fruit, is growing happily in my own vegetable patch, a short while later four enormous sticks lay in my basket, a testament to the lure of its crimson beauty.
The sky may be blue but it has not tricked me into thinking that it is warm outside, and for the moment I would rather be inside writing and sampling the muffins I have just made, the oven heat warming up the kitchen nicely. The first one was eaten very warm, the crunchy sugar and cinnamon topping being gobbled up first. If you are like me and love a little sharpness to fruit, these will delight your palate. The little pops of tangy rhubarb burst with flavour, contrasting wonderfully with the sweetness of the topping. Using only one of the huge sticks, I have enough left over to make some rhubarb ice-cream, which will be a new flavour for me, one that I have just thought would make a lovely dessert to accompany a sticky ginger pudding or just some extra gently poached rhubarb.
Hopefully, you will forgive my determination not to join the throng on the current detox/diet trend, but until I live in a country where it is now the height of summer, nobody will ever persuade me that January is a month for anything else but comfort food and lots of it. That doesn’t mean we are eating unhealthily, but a bowl of steaming stew appeals to me more on a winter’s evening than a cold salad. I noticed this morning that the tender green tips of the crocuses and daffodils are just poking above the the mulch of oaks leaves in the garden, a little sign that the frosty fingertips of winter will soon be covered by the green gloves of spring. Only then, when the spring jumps at us with its bold colours and signs of re-birth will I be ready to ditch the dumplings and reel in the roast potatoes.
When I was young, my mother always, and that it is not an exaggeration, had some sort of cake or dessert for us to eat, either when we came home from school or for our dessert after dinner and it is a tradition I enjoy sharing with my son. As a family we were not overweight and luckily always very healthy. Now feeding my own family, my fridges and store cupboards do not contain anything that has come out of a factory marked as ‘low fat’, those wolves in sheep clothing packed with additional sugars and artificial sweeteners designed to satisfy our immediate hunger. Unfortunately the sated feeling quickly fades requiring further replenishment with another sugar laden helping all too soon.
I was left dumbfounded a while ago when I asked an assistant in a supermarket to point me in the direction of the ‘normal’ creme fraiche. She politely advised me that they only sold the low fat variety as that was what their customers wanted. Well I don’t want it thank you very much! I want full fat please, every time. And real butter, I’ll pass on the simulated spreads or vegetable oils masquerading as butter, my home made bread would be most insulted if I paired it up with anything else, not to mention the assault on my very own tastebuds. And whilst I’m at it, I want a nice thick coating of fat on my pork, not some little bit of thin rind tied on as an afterthought. And don’t get me started on reduced fat cheese. What’s that all about! I would rather eat one mouthful of sticky, oozing, smelly, full fat, mind blowingly tasty real cheese than a whole pack of low fat stuff. In my mind Cheese and Low Fat do not warrant being in the same sentence.
One day the nation, and hopefully the world, will wake up to the fact that man made ‘low fat’ produce isn’t the elixir of a long or a healthy life. Eating lots of manufactured low fat food will eventually make a person fat as they need to eat more of it to keep them from feeling hungry. Nature gives us more than enough good, healthy food, countless ingredients that with a little planning and know-how we can turn into balanced nutritious meals without living on a diet of factory produced low fat, low sugar, low salt rubbish which is ruining our waistlines and health. Oooh, glad that’s off my chest, I love a rant once in a while.
So, back to the muffins. I would admit they are not the prettiest cakes that have ever been made in The Eating Tree kitchen but they are deserving of a place in the recipe file. Not overly sweet like shop bought varieties and, somewhat unusually for a muffin, I think even better the next day. If they last that long.
- 325g Plain Flour
- 150g Golden Caster Sugar
- 1½ teaspoons Baking Powder
- ½ teaspoon Bicarbonate of Soda
- ½ teaspoon Salt
- 1 teaspoon Cinnamon
- 1 Egg
- 180m Buttermilk
- 160ml Sunflower Oil
- 1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
- 200g Rhubarb, finely chopped
- For the topping
- 30g Dark Brown Sugar
- 30g Golden Caster Sugar
- 1 Teaspoon Cinnamon
- Preheat Oven to 170c (fan)
- Line a large twelve hole muffin tin.
- Mix together the topping ingredients and leave to one side.
- Put the flour, sugar, bicarb., baking powder and salt in a large bowl and mix together.
- Add the rhubarb and gently mix in.
- Mix the egg, buttermilk, oil and vanilla essence together in a bowl then mix this into the dry ingredients.
- Mix together until incorporated but stop just as the flour has disappeared, do not over mix as you will have hard muffins.
- Divide the mixture between the muffin cases.
- Sprinkle the topping over the muffins (be quite generous).
- Cook for 30-35 minutes until cooked through, test with a skewer as the top will feel hard and crunchy.
- Leave muffins to cool on a cooling rack.