Most of the time, the simple things are the best. Like these muffins. They take a few minutes to make and I love the combination of banana, peanut and dates. It’s like these flavours were created for a muffin! This is a recipe that I keep going back to again and again, I’m really chuffed that I’ve finally got around to sharing it.
These muffins are loved by kids especially, I’ve seen some amazing reactions from kids when faced with these. They disappear quickly and I think the caramel is a real favourite. They are also pretty healthy, but kids are in no way put off by that, they just love them because they’re yum. I’ve found kids are a good jury for muffins, they are perfectly honest and normally have an interesting point or two to make.
I have used a little white flour here, but you could go fully wholemeal if you’re feeling that. Also, buckwheat flour is a lovely addition to these muffins, adds a real depth. The key here it to not over bake them, they will go dry quickly. Get them out when they are still soft in the middle, but a skewer comes out clean (a little stickiness is fine) and they will firm up when cooled.
The date caramel is so, so easy and can be used on all kinds of desserts and as a go to icing and filling, it’s just a superstar recipe with three ingredients only!! These muffins also make for a great, super quick breakfast option.
These muffins use such simple ingredients that almost anyone can jump in their kitchen right now and give them a go!
Get some nice big muffins cases here. Little cup cake cases won’t do. Preferably without frilly patterns on. I’m against frilly patterns in this case. I like plain brown or white, however Jane has talked me into a pink muffin case in the past.
If you’re feeling chocolaty, add a few tbs of cocoa/ cacao to the mix, the results are amazing!!
I like coconut oil, but normal vegetable oil is also fine.
Preheat oven to 180oC, place 10 muffin cases in your muffin tin.
Mash the bananas in a mixing bowl, mix in peanut butter, oil and sugar, then the flour, bicarb, cinnamon. Mix well until a lumpy batter form.
Spoon the mix into your muffin cases, so they’re ¾ full. Pop in the oven and bake for 20 minutes. Leave the muffins to cool in the tin.
Caramel – Place all in a blender and blitz until smooth. This will take a few goes. Drizzle in more water to thin out to a spreadable consistency.
Spread your caramel over cooled muffins, sprinkle with peanuts and stick a banana chip on top for a final flourish!
Peanuts are nutritional powerhouses, like most nuts. A handle full a day is a great idea. Packed with minerals, antioxidants and protein, they are the ideal snack, rich in good fats and fibre. Peanut butter is a great way of adding peanut power to smoothies, dressings, curries/soups/stews. The hype is that nuts are fattening, but it has been shown that adding nuts to our diets can actually help us loss weight.
Jane and I have been enjoying them boiled, something we’d not tried until we went to China. Great added to a stir fry or tossed with a Chinese Style dressing in a salad.
It was Jane’s birthday recently and she loves elderflowers, lemon, mashed potato (that is not a typo) and CAKE, so I thought I’d combine them all. The cake was lovely but I liked the idea of making the recipe into muffins filled with the curd. So you cut into them and get a nice surprise. For me, elderflower is one of the tastes of summer in the UK and it’s been a bumper year. We’ve been making many vats of cordial and can’t wait for the elderberry bonza!
You know I rarely bake a ‘normal’ cake, I just can’t handle the sugar overload, but this was a birthday so I let rip. You know the BHK, we live on the edge!!! I tend to freestyle with baking which freaks many people out. I see how it goes. Sometimes it doesn’t work, but generally, sticking to some rules and with a little experience, things turn out well. It also leads to new ideas/ creation. Which is what fuels me in the kitchen. After all, go back a few years and tell people you’re putting mashed potato in a cake and a few bushy eyebrows would have been raised I’m sure. In fact, they probably still are. I like to befriend these bushy eyebrows and I know that when they taste these muffins, they’ll be smiling
I used seived spelt flour here which worked well and had read about mashed potato as a binder years ago. Someone told me about a mashed potato cake and I thought, thats the kind of creative twist that gets me going. I finally got to try it out and it worked a treat. Jane’s parents really loved them, so baking with mashed potato will be played with even more in the BHK. It is light and does help bind the cake together.
Us vegans use a lot of mashed things in our cakes, squash, pumpkin, apple, sweet potato, bananas, I think potato is as good as any and the flavour is suitably bland for a binding agent. Some people have challenged me about using such binders and saying it will make the cake taste bizarre, I would think about it this way. A non-vegan cake is normally filled with a load of scrambled egg! That seems like it will mess with flavour more than a little mashed spud. It’s just something new, thats all.
Vegan lemon curd is nice. It’s not exactly, bang on, like the other stuff, but it’s getting there and benefits from being so easy to make. Adding the elderflower cordial to it makes it better for me. You can keep any leftovers in the fridge and it’s, of course, pretty dang good on toast.
The buttercream was a birthday pressie to Jane really (not the only one I might add!) Icing sugar and me don’t see eye to eye. It reminds me of church fares as a child and the cakes were always sickly sweet bits of icing with some sponge hanging off. Or those flapjacks made with buckets of golden syrup and hard raisins. I think my favourites were top hats made with marshmallows and chocolate with a smartie on top, but you didn’t need to bake them. Or rice crispies, they were great.
Basically, this buttercream is old school and no one would be able to tell the difference. There are some decent new margarine type things coming out, Pure is a good staple choice, plus Suma and Biona always deliver good products. I just read that ‘I Can’t Belive It’s Not Butter’ have just released a ‘ICBINB It’s Vegan!’ brand, which is slightly confusing but raised a smile. It is made with ‘real’ ingredients. One thing that has shocked me in a nice way is the range of vegan ingredients and products in the supermarkets, what a difference a year makes (we’ve been travelling here, there and everywhere fyi).
This recipe over at Wall Flower Kitchen was a particular inspiration. Judging by this experiment, I would use seived spelt flour again, we know that its a good option from a health point of view but I love the flavour.
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I have toned down the sugar here, but I think it’s a perfect quantity. Not too sweet. The icing makes up for that. We tried the muffins without the icing and they’re ok with a cuppa, but you’re not going to fool any birthday person that they’re not lacking something.
All elderflower cordials are not made equal, especially if you are making your own. The cordial we used was quite strong. See recipe at the bottom.
You can use chopped almonds as a topping here, I just like the colour of the pistachios.
Best check that your lemon is unwaxed before using the zest. If it’s waxed, and you’re just juicing, don’t worry, it will still be nice and lemony.
As you know, all ovens are different. If your oven is fierce, check them after 16 minutes.
Elderflower & Pistachio Muffins
The Bits – For 12 muffins
300g spelt flour (sieved)
100g ground almonds
2 teas baking powder
1 teas bicarb of soda
200ml almond milk
150g mashed potato
2 teas vanilla extract
3 tbs elderflower cordial
80ml sunflower oil
12 large muffin cases
15g vegan margarine/ butter
150g icing sugar
1/2 teas vanilla extract
2 tbs plant based milk
2 tbs elderflower cordial
Vegan Lemon & Elderflower Curd
1 large lemon (zest and juice)
4 tbsp corn flour(starch)
40ml plant-based milk
3 tbsp brown rice syrup or sweetner of choice
1 teas turmeric powder
3 tbsp elderflower cordial
1 handful pistachios (finely chopped or pulsed in a blender a couple of times)
Fresh elderflowers (for nice decoration)
Vegan Lemon Curd
Make the curd in advance, 1 hour before is ideal. Place all ingredients into a blender and blitz until smooth. In a small saucepan, bring the curd to a gentle boil, whisking as it warms. When it reaches boiling, take off the heat and whisk well until smooth. If you leave it, expect the curd to go clumpy. Once it is nice and smooth, decant into a container and leave to cool.
Add the ground almonds to a large mixing bowl, sift in the flour, bicarb and baking powder.
In another bowl, combine the wet ingredients, including the sugar.
Stir the wet into the dry mix with a wooden spoon until just combined.
Line your muffin tray with muffin cases.
Using a dessert spoon, spoon enough mix into the muffin cases to fill around 2/3 of the case. Using a teaspoon, spoon roughly 1 1/2 tbs of curd into the centre of the case. Making the curd into a round shape before doing this helps. Now top the muffins off with the rest of the muffin mix. Don’t overfill the cases, they will rise when baked, fill them until a few millimetres from the top.
Bake 18-20 mins 180oC fan oven. Test with a skewer and look for any wet dough, the curd inside will make it slightly more difficult to tell.
Place the margarine/ butter in a bowl and whisk until creamy, gradually add the icing sugar, whisking together until you have a thick consistency. Add the elderflower and milk, whisk again, adding more icing sugar if needed, until fluffy. It should be thick and spreadable and takes a little work. If you’re not into whisking, you can use a food processor. Place in the fridge to thicken up even more.
Allow the muffins to cool on a wire rack and then spoon on the buttecream, spread with the back of a spoon, sprinkle over pistachios, top with elderflowers.
We don’t eat enough flowers do we!? Flowers make any bowl, plate and especially salads even more beautiful.
Summer flowers that we can eat include nasturtium, calendula, borage, broad bean flowers, chicory, chives, snap dragon, sunflower, tulip, viola, violets, wild primrose, wild garlic, coriander, cornflower, dahlia, gladioli, daisy, chives, honeysuckle, pansy, rose, sage, courgette flowers. Quite a list and that’s nowhere near all of them. Flowers are on the menu!
Flowers like this generally have a light flavour, it’s more about the vibrant look really. Don’t just wander out and eat any flower though, many are not good for us, some poisonous.
Elderflower is said to have anti-septic, anti-viral, anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties, it is also said to lower blood sugar and boosts the immune system. You can also gargle (not coridal) with elderflower, which is quite nice.
Find out how to make our favourite Elderflower Cordial and Elderflower Champagne. Elderflowers are so abundant at this time of year its a shame not to;) One thing I haven’t tried is Elderflower Tempura which sounds delicious. Anyone tasted it?
As ever, if you bake these muffins, we’d love to hear your comments and chat below.
PS – We very rarely get any freebies and have no sponsorship etc, we do this because we love it! If we mention products, it’s only because we like them and want to share. If we get free stuff etc, we would tell you.
We’re on the road in France and Spain at the minute, but here’s one we did earlier…….
We have some lovely friends of the Beach House Kitchen to thank for these nuts, Rachel and Axel over on Anglesey, who somehow man-handled their monkey puzzle tree into letting go of its precious nuts. Not an easy task, these trees are seriously covered in sharp spines.
We saw this technique being executed by the British wild food guru Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall on his TV programme ‘Veg Everyday’ recently and he needed the help of a tree expert and a hydraulic lift. From what Rach tells me Axel simply shimmied up a neighbouring tree and shook the hell out of the top, using only a snake catching pole (Axel is an expert in all things snakes and adders) and net. Unconventional harvesting techniques demand an unconventional recipe me thought. Hugh made a tasty looking summer cous cous salad out of his puzzle nuts, but we were on a different page all together.
So I had a bowl of these beauties, I roasted them and tried one, tastes a little like a chestnut merged with a pine nut. They are probably best just eaten as they are, but I couldn’t resist sticking them in this vegan muffin recipe that I’ve been sitting on for a while. A word of gentle warning, these nuts do go a bit dry after roasting and when baked. CRUNCH!
Jane has been fantasising about cake now for a few days and I have finally got around to making my poor, long suffering lady something resembling a sweet thing. This is as close as I get really, all that white flower, butter and sugar makes me feel a little queasy. These muffins are packed with the good stuff and still taste mighty fine.
Monkey Puzzle Tree
What on earth is a Monkey Puzzle Nut?
The monkey puzzle tree (or Araucaria araucana if you’re Latin speaker) is an evergreen that can grow up to 40 metres tall with a trunk of two metres wide! The tree is covered with sharp, blade-like, ‘reptilian’ leaves or spines that make the monkey puzzle nut one of natures toughest morsels to harvest. The tree is native to the low Andean slopes of Chile and Argentina but seems to do well on this little grey island. It is a hardy conifer and you regularly see them sticking out of gardens and stately home driveways. I don’t think there is a more incongruous tree on this island than the monkey puzzle.
What on earth is Jaggery?
Jaggery is an unrefined sugar used in many parts of the world, known as Gud in India. It has an amazing toffee-like texture and can be made with palm, coconut or date tree sap. Jaggery has a powerful, caramelised flavour that sets it apart from any sugar I have come across. It is high is sucrose and can be used as a healthier alternative to refined sugar. Great in a chai. I like to bake with it because it flavours and sweetens.
You could use a good unrefined brown sugar as a substitute, or even something like molasses, as jaggery can be a little hard to track down.
These muffins make for a great breakfast (they are nice and dense) and are best served warmed through. A cold muffin has an air of austerity to it that a baked good should not possess. If you are storing them, make sure they are in a well sealed container or well cling filmed, they can get a little dry these vegan sorts.
I used polenta and oats here as they were in the cupboard, another flour like spelt, rye or tapioca will work really well. Polenta isn’t quite fine enough to bind and bake as well as other flours. The oats add alot of ballast and ‘feel’ to these wonder muffs.
Makes for six hearty muffs.
2 cups polenta, 2 cups oats (gluten-free), 1 teas cinnamon, 1 teas baking powder (gluten-free), 1/2 teas bicarb, 1/4 teas sea salt, 2 mashed bananas, 1/2 cup coconut oil, 1 grated carrot, 1/2 cup jaggery, 8 finely diced dates (finely chopped), 1 teas vanilla extract, 2/3 cup monkey puzzle nuts (or pine nuts/ your favourite nut), 1/3 cup chopped dark chocolate (finely chopped), 1/3 cup roasted pumpkin seeds, 1/2 cup soya milk
Preheat your oven to 375ºF and grease six muffin cups (or use silicon muffin cups). In a bowl, mix with vigour the polenta, oats, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In a food processor, blitz together the banana, coco oil, jaggery and vanilla until relatively smooth with just some small banana lumps remaining. Add wet mix to dry and add carrot, chocolate, seeds and milk. Fold and stir together nicely until just combine.
Divide the batter up between the six muffin cups, and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until slightly browned on top and a thin knife inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean.
With a cup of fine tea. Best warm from the oven, but great in a packed lunch too.
We Love It!
Simply put, we know of no cooler muff.
Jaggery is unrefined and a more complex carbohydrate than normal white sugar. It contains magnesium and salts and good levels of the antioxidant selenium. Jaggery also contains iron, which helps ease tension.