Without Scarlet Bennett and her Creative Challenge 52 Exploring Eating would be neglected. Without my fellow team members across the world in Australia I would not have the motivation to dash into the kitchen at least once a week and whip up something I might not otherwise have even considered.

For this week’s challenge I decided to make halva muffins inspired by Yotam Ottolenghi’s sesame  halva and walnut cake. This is a cake that bears no comparison, a cake so exquisite that you want to eat it everyday, it’s a cake that makes you forget that chocolate cake even exists. You would be right in wondering why anyone would even consider making something merely inspired by it, just make the real thing for goodness sake.

But I did try something inspired by it. I made two types of muffins one of which was inspired not only by Yottam’s cake but by my recent alternative milk tart experiments. There lies madness you might say. The woman has gone crazy. Version one: halva and dark chocolate. Version two: halva, rose extract and cardamom. muffins halva rose cardamom In fact I inadvertently made three types since I managed to get mixed up when I was assembling the layers. I was horrified when I realised what I’d done. I’d put chocolate into some of the rose and cardamom muffins. This was sure to be a disaster. I hate chocolate with cardamom AND I hate chocolate with rose. And worse  surely that was just one too many different flavours?

The minute the tray came out of the oven I tentatively tasted one of the version three muffins. Not bad. Rather nice in fact. Well I liked it but the kids were sure to hate them. Never mind, there were still plenty of the other two more restrained versions. I’d just have to eat the version three muffins myself.

The entire family was still in bed. It was only 6.15 am. I went to my computer to send Scarlet pictures of the fruits of my labours and while I was doing that I started to feel bad about  making sweet, fattening baked things for breakfast. Richard is trying to lose weight. All baked goods have been eliminated from his diet. What could I do that would make him feel catered to, too?

I dashed back to the kitchen and threw together a perfect paleo breakfast for Richard – mini baked fritatta flavoured with tarragon and lovage from the garden. I worried slightly about mixing those two herbs which grow so happily next to each other in the garden but thought what the hell, tarragon is perfect with eggs and I’m on a mission to find ways of using the lovage.

Maria appeared in the kitchen. ‘You’re up early. Have you been making something for breakfast or have you made another of your weird potions?’ she asked.

‘You’re in luck,’ I said, and pointed to versions one and two. ‘You’ll hate the others. They were a mistake.’

‘How can you be so sure?’ she asked. I replied that if there is one thing I’ve learnt about my children it’s that they don’t like my more unusual creations and that it was fine, I’d eat those muffins.

Being a self-respecting teenager Maria defiantly grabbed a version three muffin. I had a brief flashback to a four year  leaving a plate of biscuits each one with a perfect half-moon missing for the guests to eat. At least there weren’t any guests coming for breakfast.

‘Actually,’ said Maria, ‘it’s quite nice.’ And she popped the last of the muffin into her mouth. ‘Can I have another?’

Jamie was in complete agreement. The ‘failure’ was by far the best, he declared. Richard often says, ‘Failure is where the treasure is,’ and in this instance (if in no other) I have to acknowledge he’s right. That’s the recipe I’ll make again and the recipe you’ll find below.  A happy mistake. frittata swiss chard cheese tarragon lovage Then Richard appeared. ‘Mmm, those look good. What’s in them?’ he said pointing to the frittata. I did what I usually do when I’m scared to admit what the ingredients really are and said ‘Try them, guess, you tell me’. The tarragon and  lovage frittata were declared delicious so I encourage you to throw caution to the wind and  mix unexpected flavours. Within reason.

Halva, chocolate, cardamom and rose muffins

Ingredients

  • 100g butter, melted
  • 165 g demerara sugar – you can use ordinary brown sugar of course, I just wanted to use what I had
  • 2 extra large free range eggs
  • 200 ml Greek yoghurt
  • 4 teaspoons rose extract – I always use Kuhestan Damask Rose Extract from Magoebaskloof, Limpopo
  • 120g cake flour
  • 120g wholwheat flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
  • 1.5 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1.5  teaspoon cinnamon
  • seeds from 12 green cardamom pods crushed fine in a pestle and mortar
  • pinch salt
  • 120 g halva – cut half of it into 24 small cubes and roughly crumble the balance
  • 80 g dark chocolate cut into 24 small pieces
  • Topping: mix together 30 g finely crumbled halva, 25 g rolled oats and 1/2 teaspoon ground cinamon

Method

  1. Heat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius.
  2. Mix the  melted butter, sugar, eggs, yoghurt and the  rose essence together in a bowl.
  3. In another bowl stir together all the dry ingredients and gently mix in the 60 g of crumbled halva.
  4. Stir the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients and combine until just mixed.
  5. Line 12 half cup  (125 ml) muffin tins and divide half the batter into them.
  6. Scatter the halva and chocolate cubes over the batter and then top with the remaining batter.
  7. Sprinkle with the topping mix and bake for 20 minutes.

I based the muffin recipe on Ruby Tandoh’s raisin cinnamon muffins from The Guardian.

Baked mini  frittata 

Ingredients

  • olive oil for greasing
  • 3 rashers bacon chopped
  • 24 cherry tomatoes
  • 1 young lovage stalk with its leaves, finely chopped
  • 80 g mixed cheese cut into cubes – I used a mix of goats milk haloumi and feta
  • 30 g shredded Swiss chard
  • 6 extra large free range eggs beaten well with black pepper and salt to taste
  • a couple of sprigs of tarragon, finely chopped

Method

  1. Heat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius.
  2. Put a few drops of olive oil into 12 (80 ml) muffin tins, add two tomatoes to each and divide the bacon and lovage between the twelve tins.
  3. Place in the oven and roast for 15 minutes, stirring once or twice.
  4. Divide the cheese and Swiss chard between the 12 cups.
  5. Pour the egg and tarragon over the cheese, chard and tomato/bacon/lovage mix.
  6. Bake for ten minutes until the egg has puffed up and is cooked through.
Advertisements