I used to work at this cute little take-away deli/café, which was renowned for its coffee, and especially for its savoury muffins. They were the embodiment of what the god of muffins would be like. They were divine. Later, the café changed hands and our lovely cook left, leaving a big hole in our customer’s stomachs and hearts. But not all was lost. Before I left to go on adventures of my own, I acquired the recipe from the grey ring-bound book in which the previous cooks had found enlightenment. And I too, found it. This is it. The Holy Grail. The muffin of muffins. Crunchy and crumbly on the outside, soft and delicately fluffy on the inside. The master recipe is endlessly adaptable of course, so over the course of time I will bring you my favourites. I shall start with my personal favourite, the roasted pumpkin and pesto muffin. You’re very welcome.
Roasted Pumpkin and Pesto Muffins
You will have to prepare the roast pumpkin an hour or so in advance, just for time management and stuff. And yes, there is a lot of oil. But that’s just how it is honey. Go with it.
Makes 12 standard muffins, or if you have a giant muffin pan, 6. Adjust cooking times accordingly.
¼ large jap pumpkin, cut into 2cm dice
12 garlic cloves, peeled
salt, pepper and olive oil
2 cups/300g plain flour
4 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp salt
220ml canola oil
6 Tbsp basil pesto, plus 2 Tbsp extra, for decorating
For the pumpkin, you can preheat the oven to 200°C while you chop it up. Place the pumpkin on a baking tray with the garlic cloves, and drizzle with some olive oil and grind over some salt and pepper. Bake for about 40 minutes, or until soft. Cool. You will only need half of this, about 2 cups or two handful’s worth. From that, put aside 12 pieces of pumpkin and the garlic cloves. These you’ll need to decorate the top with. The leftover pumpkin, well I’ll leave that up to your imagination what you’ll do with that. I’ve got all confidence in you.
Get a muffin tin and line each hole with a square of baking paper.
Now turn the oven down to 190°C. In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt. In a jug, whisk together the oil, milk, egg and pesto. Pour into the flour mix and give it a few stirs. Add the pumpkin and incorporate with as few stirs as possible – you must not over mix the batter, or else they won’t come out beautifully fluffy and gorgeous like I told you. And we really want fluffy. Scoop the mixture into the prepared muffin tin and divide evenly amongst the holes. Top each muffin with a piece of pumpkin and a clove of garlic, and dollop a tiny bit of pesto on top. Place the tray into the oven and bake for 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean, and the top is nicely golden brown.
If you’re going to have them the next day, reheat them in the oven at the same heat for a few minutes for the best results. Microwaves are completely unwelcome, unless you’re looking for a de-crunchified, slightly soggy experience.