Cheesy Chilli Muffins

A little while ago I took a trip to Gringa Dairy, a converted railway arch down in  Peckham, where owner Kristen hand-makes authentic Mexican style cheese. A woman of boundless enthusiasm, Kristen makes three cheese Queso Fresco, Queso Chihuahua and the intricately tied Queso Oaxaca. All three are beautiful, delicious cheeses and we actually use her Queso Chihuahua at The Cheese Truck. We talked about Mexican food and she kindly gave me a jar of Gran Luchito chilli paste. When opened, this tiny little jar gave off the most incredible smoky, dried raisin and tobacco aromas.  This stuff is seriously delicious, I just had to bake with it.

Gringa dairy

The cheese making room inside Gringa Dairy, Peckham

When I think of baking and chillies together the first thing my mind is drawn to is cornbread. I love cornbread. There is something wonderfully savoury about the flavour of cornmeal that, having quite the opposite of a sweet-tooth, I adore. Cornbread always reminds me a particular holiday as a small child. We’d gone to an old fashioned dinner show; the show was Wild West themed and so we sat in a big, dusty hippodrome and I had my first taste of cornbread.

This recipe isn’t actually for cornbread however, although it is cornbread inspired, and as most things in my life at the moment involve cheese this recipe is no exception. I’d use a good strong cheddar for this recipe, the nicest you can afford, otherwise the muffins won’t have that pleasing cheddar tang. Devour these warm, as they come out of the oven, with butter or a little cream cheese. Buen provecho!

Gran Luchito and Cheddar Muffins

Makes 12 muffins

175g plain flour

115g fine cornmeal (polenta)

1/8 tsp salt

1 tbsp baking powder

85g unsalted butter (melted and cooled)

2 medium eggs

250ml buttermilk

1 tbsp honey or Gran Luchito Smoked Chilli Honey

140g mature cheddar cheese (grated), plus extra for topping

20g Gran Luchito Chilli Paste

Preheat your oven to 200°C/180°C fan/gas 6. Begin by sifting together the flour, salt, baking powder and cornmeal in a large bowl.

Next whisk together the eggs, melted butter, honey and buttermilk.

Gentle combine the wet and dry ingredients and add in the grated cheese. The key with muffins is not to over-mix the batter, try to combine everything in less than twelve strokes. It should look a bit rough and lumpy but this helps give the muffins their characteristic, uneven texture.

Finally, take the chilli paste and, using a knife, ripple it through batter. You want streaks of chilli running through the batter so again don’t mix too thoroughly.

Grease a muffin try or line it with muffin cases and evenly distribute the batter between the 12 cases and top with the extra grated cheddar.

Bake in the preheated oven for around 20-25mins until the muffins are risen, golden and the cheese have melted.

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New Year, Old Bananas

One thing you should know about me is that I hate wasting food. No matter how insignificant the portion I really hate throwing food away. This is fine with me as I actually really enjoy cooking with leftovers. When I returned to London this week, after being home with my family for Christmas, I came back to my kitchen to find that one of my house mates had a pair of bananas in the ‘fruit bowl’ (a wicker basket that serves also as a bread bin and for some reason is home to our garlic).

old bananas

 As you can see in this picture they were pretty darn  old. Luckily there are loads of delicious things you can  bake with overripe bananas. However, a second thing  you should know about me is that there is only one  food on this Earth that I do not enjoy the taste  of…bananas. Which left me in a dilemma: unnecessarily throw away food or face my culinary nemesis. 

 Of course in the end the desire to bake won. This then left me racking my brains, cookbooks and the internet trying to decide what to do with the things. Banana cream pies, banana and passion fruit tarts, banoffee everything, the list is endless. I narrowed it down to one of two banana bread recipes: Dan Lepard’s brilliant Butterscotch Banana Cake from Short & Sweet or a rich, chocolate banana loaf like my Mum used to bake.  A third thing you should know about me is that I am not great at making decisions. So why pick one recipe when I could make both and mix the two together! The banana marble loaf was born.

If you’ve got old bananas knocking about I can’t think of a better way to use them up. This is a seriously moist cake great for a tea-time treat or a desert with a dollop of yoghurt and some berries.

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House mate approved!

Butterscotch & chocolate marbled banana bread

Makes 1 900g/2lb loaf

 Butterscotch bananas 

125g overripe bananas (approx 1), mashed

75g caster sugar25ml water

1 tsp vanilla extract

10g butter

Basic wet batter

175g melted butter, cooled

3 eggs

50g plain yogurt

Pinch of salt

100g caster sugar

Banana batter

135g plain flour

1 tsp baking powder

¼ tsp bicarbonate of soda

Chocolate batter

125g overripe banana (approx 1), mashed

90g dark chocolate

2 tbsp cocoa powder

80g plain flour

1 tsp baking powder

¼ tsp bicarbonate of soda

Start off by making the banana butterscotch. Put the sugar and water into a pan and boil, on a high heat, until you get a red-brown caramel. Then add the butter, mashed banana and vanilla extract. Turn the heat down and simmer until the banana has broken down. Tip onto a plate and allow to cool.

Preheat your oven to 170°C/150°C fan/gas 4 and line a 900g/2lb loaf tin with greaseproof baking paper.

Beat together to ingredients for the basic wet batter until smooth and slightly aerated. Split the mixture equally between two bowls.

To one half of the wet batter add the cooled butterscotch. Sift in the plain flour baking powder and bicarb and fold until smooth.

Melt the chocolate gently in a bain marie or in short bursts in a microwave. Once cooled slightly beat the chocolate into the second half of the batter along with the remaining mashed banana. Sift in the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and bicarb and fold it all together until smooth.

Now the fun part; spoon alternate dollops of each batter into the prepared tin. You should be able to do this in two layers so you have a rough chequerboard of butterscotch and chocolate in the bottom half of the tin and another in the top half. With a skewer, chopstick, spoon handle etc. Make brief strokes through the batter to create the marble effect. Don’t go too crazy though or you’ll overmix the two batters and end up with more of a mud than a marble.

Bake, in the middle of the oven, for 55-65 minutes until the cake is risen and firm to the touch. Test with a clean skewer, if the skewer comes out clean then remove from the oven, if not bake for another 5 minutes. Leave in the tin to cool for 10-15 minutes before removing and cooling on a wire rack.

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