Tuesday, 24 June 2008

Ruby Muffins

The rhubarb plant in our garden has been the one reliable thing so far this year. It was a gift from friend who's own plant was beginning to take over the place. Who'd have thought that chilly January weekend when we escorted it back from Kent, wrapped in a plastic bag, that it was going to settle in so well. It took us a couple of weeks to get it planted in a large half barrel, and I wondered whether it was going to survive. It was quiet through most of the winter, a small unassuming plant nestled on the edge of the top section of the decking. We watered and feed and waited, watching the wide green leaves and pink stalks, hoping for the best.

Suddenly at the end of May, when we weren't looking, we got it. An abundance of lovely tall stalks just aching to be picked and used. Who was I to argue!

Fortunately not only do N and I both love rhubarb, but the plant just kept on giving. So this month with the British strawberry season in full swing I decided to try a combination of flavours that loads of people have been telling me is lovely, strawberry and rhubarb, a red juicy combination of sweetness and tartness that wonderfully balance each other.

One evening we had them simply roasted together, and yes, it was indeed wonderful, the fruits condensing to produce a rich juicy dish packed with flavour. I immediately wanted to try the combination again. But how, I didn't have enough rhubarb for a pie or crumble. I suddenly remembered a muffin recipe I'd seen that used the fruits. Since I have been making batches of muffins for N to take to work for breakfast it seemed perfect. I could make a batch on Friday, have one for Saturday's late breakfast whilst listening to the cricket, and pop the rest in the freezer for N to indulge in during the week.

I cut down the sugar in the recipe because the strawberries were so ripe and sweet. I also exchanged the butter for apple puree in order to cut out the fat. The result was a light fruity muffin that wasn't too sweet. They were perhaps slightly too sticky, but that could be rectified by a few more minutes in the oven, and leaving them out for a little while after they'd cooled. All in all I was pretty pleased with them, and happily eat them for my breakfast twice over the weekend!

I've called them ruby muffins because the golden batter of the muffins was interrupted by the bursts of bright red and pink of the fruit, which was juicy and shining like jewels.

Ruby Muffins - Adapted from Diane Boneparte's "Mad about Bread" (Makes 12)

300g plain flour
15g baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground ginger
140g golden caster sugar
100g Apple puree
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
30g sultanas
100g rhubarb, chopped
200g strawberries, chopped

Preheat the oven to 200C (180C fan oven) and line a two six cup muffin pans with papers

sift the dry ingredients into a large bowl. Combine the eggs, milk and vanilla together in a small bowl, and then add them, and the apple puree to the dry ingredients. Stir until just combined (don't over mix - lumps are good in muffins). Add the fruit and gently fold into the batter. Spoon the batter into the muffin trays, as high as you can in the cups to get the true risen muffin top. Bake for 25-30mins, until golden and risen and they spring back when lightly pressed.

Cool before eating. Can be frozen to avoid that tendency to eat them all at once!

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