I have been playing around with some of the new ingredients I find in my pantry. I bought chickpea flour to make Cyndi’s Gluten Free Bread (new Everyday Cookbook). There was quite a bit left. Then I saw a cooking show where they were making onion bhajis with chickpea flour. They looked delicious and what’s more like something my children might consider worth trying.
I looked up some recipes and came across one in my old favourite cookbook, Stephanie Alexander’s The Cook’s Companion. She had a recipe for carrot fritters that looked similar to the bhajis, so I thought lets give that a whirl. The kids seem to prefer carrot things to onion things anyway. Also, the recipe required me to open a beer and being that kind of evening that was all the excuse I needed.
I roughly chopped 2 medium sized carrots and some spring onions and threw them into the Thermomix, chopping finely on Speed 5 for 5 seconds (I wanted the pieces pretty small, so cooking would be even as well as children not being able to pull out bits). I added 150g chickpea flour, 1/2 teaspoon ground tumeric, 1.5 teaspoons ground cumin, sprinkling of salt (recipe called for 1 teaspoon, I think you can sprinkle more on the cooked fritters if they need it rather than put too much in the batter), 1 egg and half a cup of beer. Recipe also called for 1/4 teaspoon of cayenne pepper, but I left it out in case children found them too ‘zingy’ (their word). If you would like it more zingy put it in, or throw in a chilli or two with the carrots and spring onion at the beginning. Mix on Speed 5 for 5 seconds or until all incorporated.
Heat oil in a frying pan. You need enough oil to be covering the whole pan and also coming up the sides a bit. You will need to top up oil in between batches. Remember to wait for it to heat up when you do this. Splodge small spoon sized batter in a pleasing pattern around the pan, leaving a little room between each so you can lever a spatula in to flip em over. When they start to brown around the edges, flip and wait a few more seconds to brown on the other side. Standard pancake procedure. Flip out onto kitchen paper lined plate. Eat some. Share them with children if you so desire. Or if there are any left.
I served mine to the grown ups with cauliflower roasted till crispy with a good splashing of oil and a sprinkling of ground cumin, pappadums, rice and a spinach curry that I found here. So easy in the Thermomix. And TASTY! I left out the cheese, because I didn’t have the time to make it and it would have been overkill with everything else on the plate. And I was tired by then.
School holidays are here (in Queensland at least), which means I try to fill up our time with lots of playdates. My aim is to minimise long stretches of time at home and maximise both tiring activities for the children and adult company for me. Both visits to other homes and receiving guests means a need for morning or afternoon tea. Having been in a mothers group for five years (a lovely group of people who are the very best of what other parents can be – non judgmental) I have found there is such a thing as cake overload. However, you still need to cater for the varying states of parenthood:
1. Pregnant. Eating cake is mostly guilt free (making exceptions for those with gestational diabetes, where you just have to say ‘I realise there is hardly anything here you can eat and I am really sorry for that. Have a cracker.’). When you are pregnant these days it is often necessary to feel guilty eating almost anything but cake once you have been handed that listeria pamphlet by your well meaning doctor. Any food prepared by others, especially your healthy choices of salads and sandwiches, are possibly harbouring this horrifying bacteria. And under no circumstances eat chicken, deli meats, soft cheeses or anything else that might allow you an enjoyable life.
2. Breastfeeding. Need cake even more than pregnant. Operating on very little sleep, possibly forgetting meals in the constant fog of calculating times between feeds for the wee one and requiring a larger calorie intake than usual due to having all nutrients sucked out every two to four hours.
3. Trying to lose weight. Once breastfeeding stops that larger calorie intake needs to be curtailed quicksmart or the continued lack of sleep and irregular meals seems to start working against your body and weight gain happens while you are worrying if the house is child proofed enough for the junior Houdini who recently emerged from babyhood. Which means cake playdates can be very hard to do.
4. Maintaining sanity. The rest of the parenting experience. Sleep is either still being caught up or just a new level of deprived. Children’s needs continue to outweigh parents’ needs by everything to none. Cake is appreciated but when playdates are more than once a week it is useful to have another choice.
Which brings us to muffins. Sure, they are cake like. But I find a bit more room to move in the healthier options department. And nutritional value. For example, you can stick either fruit or vegetables in there and children won’t necessarily run from them. Also, because muffins are supposed to be only barely mixed together they are very quick to make.
I have loosely followed a recipe from a blog I googled while looking for a way to make use of an excess of bananas – Cat Can Cook. It seemed to be a fairly robust, simple recipe that could be adjusted easily to fit in whatever you have in the fruit bowl or in the vegetable drawer. Firstly I did banana and sultana muffins.
Peel 3 or 4 bananas and break them into pieces as you put them in the Thermomix bowl. Add half a cup of sugar (I used rapadura sugar for these as I had it and am finding it gives a lovely caramelly flavour to things), a teaspoon of cinnamon, a teaspoon of baking powder, a teaspoon of bicarb soda (while you have the teaspoon out), 1 egg, a pinch of salt, 60-70 grams melted butter (or oil – depending on your tastes and what is in your stocks) and 220 grams (or one and a half cups) of plain flour. Mix on Speed 5 for 10 seconds. Check on it, maybe spatula the sides and if need be mix for another 5 seconds. Add a handful or so of sultanas and mix again, but on Reverse this time, for 5 seconds. Decant to muffin tray with patty pans if you can’t be bothered greasing the little indents. Bake in oven on 180 degrees for about 20 minutes. Everyone’s ovens are different so keep an eye on them and don’t do what I did and forget until they are quite brown on top and you can smell them through the house. Or do if that is how you appreciate time.
I have also tried apple and blueberry muffins, where you make an apple sauce first (there is one in the Everyday Cookbook – add some cinnamon if you wish) then follow as above, substituting blueberries for sultanas. Adjust sweetness depending on the fruit by tasting the batter. If it tastes as if you could keep eating it without bothering with the oven you should have it about right.
As for savoury, I have found if you substitute, say, grated zuchinni and/or carrot (blitzed from roughly chopped to itty bitty pieces prior in Thermomix) for the fruit and grated cheese for the sugar the flavour is about right. You may need to add some salt depending on the saltiness of your cheese. Depending on your child’s tastes you could throw in some spring onion during the grating process to add a zing to the flavour.
And there you have your basic muffin. Breakfast substitute for the perpetually foggy minded. Nutrition for the kidlets. Close enough for the cake deprived.