and if you don’t want to be down with me, you don’t want to pick from my apple tree

I made these Apple and Cinnamon muffins ages ago – they were the second thing I tried from Nigella Lawson’s book Kitchen after the Spaghetti with Marmite (which got slated in a column in the local paper – any Dominion Post readers out there, don’t disregard its deliciousness! I guess that was one opinion, and mine is merely another, but still.) I don’t know why it’s taken me so long to blog about them, but…here they are.
I do agree with Nigella’s emphatic and continued suspicion of the muffins you run into in many cafes and supermarkets. What they lack in tenderness and flavour, they make up for in height and overpricedness. It could be easy to dislike the concept of muffins altogether if your main experience of them is handing over $4.50 for a mountain of foam mattress sprinkled in chocolate chips, somehow dry and oily simulataneously. Maybe you like this, or your experience of shop muffins is better than mine. All good.
However home-made muffins, while less uniform in shape, are very easy to make and as long as you don’t over-mix them, pretty well guaranteed to be extremely delicious. I realise apple and cinnamon muffins might sound like the obvious-est of the obvious but this recipe of Nigella’s is incredibly good – dense and sweet with honey and yoghurt and textured with chunks of apple and almonds. And it probably costs less to make a whole dozen than it would to buy just one from the supermarket.
Nigella uses spelt flour in this recipe instead of regular flour, which makes them more acceptable for some people who eat wheat-free, but not necessarily those who are gluten-free – it’s a little complicated but go with what you know is best for you, I guess. I bought a bag of spelt flour a year ago and never ended up using it so it was nice to have the opportunity to try it out. These muffins are so full of flavour that I couldn’t say they were distinctively spelt-ish, they just came out looking and tasting like muffins should. You could definitely just use regular plain flour rather than rushing out to find spelt.
Apple and Cinnamon Muffins

From Nigella Lawson’s Kitchen

2 apples
250g spelt flour (or just plain flour)
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
125g brown sugar
125ml honey (1/2 a cup)
60ml (1/4 cup) natural yoghurt
125 ml oil (1/2 a cup – and I use Rice Bran oil)
2 eggs
75g natural almonds, roughly chopped.

Set your oven to 200 C and line your muffin tin with papers.

Chop the apples into small dice, leaving out the core of course, and put to one side. Whisk together the brown sugar, honey, yoghurt, oil and eggs in a bowl.

Tip in the apples, flour, baking powder, half the almonds, and one teaspoon of the cinnamon into this and gently fold it together with a spatula. Try not to overmix – I tend to lift and shift the batter rather than do a full on stirring motion, if that makes any sense at all.

Spoon evenly amongst the muffin tin, and sprinkle with the remaining cinnamon and almonds, plus a little more brown sugar if you like. Bake for 20 minutes. Let them stand 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool.
While the comfort-food element of cinnamon and apple obviously works, the almonds, growing smokily nutty under the oven’s heat, and honey, complementing the diced apple’s clean but layered sweetness, keep these muffins from being predictable. They take minutes to throw together but stay good for ages in a sealed container, if anything becoming even more delicious with time (although that could be a product of imagination and anticipation, waking up thinking “OHBOY a delicious muffin for a mid-morning snack.”)
In fact, one of the excellent things about muffins is that they’re really just cake, but you can eat them any time of day including breakfast, without getting strange looks – in the sort of way that a pavlova or ice cream might. Not that avoiding strange looks should be your main motivation in life, not at all! It’s just a nice thought…breakfast cake.
Tim and I went out to Petone yesterday and at the record shop partway down Jackson Street, I found the original Broadway cast recording of Company on vinyl. I didn’t even think it existed in New Zealand – considering the juggernaut that is only has about 6 copies, one for US$90…and now for relative pennies I’ve got Elaine Stritch barking “she’s tall enough to be your mother” as people originally heard her the first time round in 1970. I had to keep taking it out of the bag and looking at it on the bus back into the city in case I’d just done a really good job of imagining it. But it exists. It’s damn exciting.

Speaking of, I am seriously anticipational about Tiger Translate on the 26th of November, if you’re in Wellington around this time you should most definitely give it your time of day. Even though I feel like I don’t quite have a grip on what it is, there’s a whole lot of creativity that’ll go down and there will be some amazing locals performing. We’ve been lucky to witness many of them in action already over the last year or so, with their powers combined who knows what kind of fresh mayhem will occur. TrinityRoots’ stunner drummer Riki Gooch, Julien Dyne and Parks who we saw just last week onstage with Ladi6, Homebrew, whose lyric-memorising male fans still astound months after we saw them with David Dallas at Watusi, Adi Dick who despite being in a squillion different music projects we’ve never actually seen live, the mighty intriguing Orchestra of Spheres, the amazing Electric Wire Hustle who we saw back in February and have since been galloping round the globe, Tommy Ill, Alphabethead whose happy style we love, Scratch 22, Fried Chicken Sound System, The Jewel School plus particularly special guest DJ Zooloo from Mongolia. Tim and I are going to be there and if you get a move on the first 500 people to register online get free tickets – not sure if this has filled up but either way check out their website for more info.
While I’m talking to Wellington, can anyone tell me where to get decent garlic? It seems like even the expensive stuff from the supermarket, with the pretty purple-tinged papery casing is all chomped and denty, gets green shoots quickly, and burns the tongue like raw onion. I guess people selling garlic have no way of knowing what’s underneath the stuff you peel off, but I’m also guessing you can’t return a bulb once you’ve bought it. Sure, there’s the mulched up stuff in jars, but for those times you want whole cloves…?
Title via: Erykah Badu and her song Appletree from the beautiful album Baduizm. Such an amazing woman – I wish she’d tour on down to New Zealand.
Music lately:
I Learned The Hard Way, by Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings, from the album of the same title. Now there’s an amazing woman who is coming to New Zealand, and luckily for us we were able to buy tickets. Can’t wait.
Obviously, have got Company doing many revolutions right now. Can’t get enough no.
Next time: I am on a prawn high right now, watch out.

7 thoughts on “and if you don’t want to be down with me, you don’t want to pick from my apple tree

  1. diva says:

    OOOOH this is yum, how dare you say it is not as exciting. Anything muffin is. Also, i'm so jealous you got the Kitchen cookbook. I've been wanting it for a while (and many others too sheesh). Am about to go check out that marmite pasta. Heard so much about it.

    ps. i love marmite i really do.

    pps. I love erykah badu too.


  2. Hannah says:

    I wonder how one would define being “spelt-ish”? I have a desire to call myself spelt-ish now. It sounds right.

    I'm bookmarking this šŸ™‚ I've been avoiding muffins for fear of over-running by blog with them, but I can't resist for long. And when you say almonds, cinnamon, and breakfast cake in the same sentence… I'm hooked.


  3. Anonymous says:

    New seasons garlic should start showing up really soon. This time of year all the stuff in the shops has been stored for ages, that's why it's all woody and shooty. I reckon.


  4. hungryandfrozen says:

    Diva: I will have to try out your muffin recipe asap. Yay for Marmite and Badu love.

    Hannah: Yeah, I reckon I'm a bit spelt-ish myself. Poor muffins, they seem a bit boring and 'done' but they are still delicious.

    Anonymous: I will look out for the new season's garlic then.


  5. Jason says:

    I'm exceptionally lucky to be able to hand over a couple dollars and get the best damn muffins in the world at the cafe at work. I'm sure if regular cafe/bakery/supermarket muffins were even half as good there would be a lot less haters out there.


  6. Anonymous says:

    mmmmm just made these and wowzas. Really moist, the honey gives them a really lovely flavour and with the crunch of the almonds- yes please! Go Nigella- it's nice to know there are people out there who love her recipes and books as much as I do!


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