Carrot, apple and walnut muffins

A vegetable, a fruit, nuts, grains and seeds – sounds like a breakfast designed by a dietitian, doesn’t it? Well, let me assure you: it’s not what it tastes like. Because it’s a recipe from the first Ottolenghi cookbook and apparently Mr. Ottoleghi thinks eating healthy is just fine -as long as the food tastes sumptuous and never should you sacrifice taste on the altar of healthfulness.

I often bake muffins or other breakfast breads in the weekends. I even used to do it on weekdays in the best-forgotten-times when the children used to wake up before 6 a.m. and insist on getting up immediately.  Most muffin recipes are so simple that you can make them with your eyes still half glued together by sleep. This one though, is not: it calls for 23 different ingredients, some of them need to be grated, some chopped. You need to make a batter and a topping.

They’re not difficult to make, but take a little more effort than most. But the taste, the warm spices, the crunchy topping, they make up for it. My only complaint is that for something you eat for breakfast, there’s too much sugar. I used 250 g instead of the suggested 280g and found them still too sweet for my taste. Next time I would use even less.

The taste of these muffins actually improves after a couple of hours, so if you’re not up to baking in the early morning, you can make them the evening before. My husband took a couple of the leftover muffins to work on Monday and the kids took some to school. Muffin may not be an ideal lunch, but with all the good stuff in them, these are rather nutritious.

Carrot, apple and walnut muffins
Adapted, only slightly, from Ottolenghi
The recipe said it would make 10-12, I got 12 easily
300 g plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp ground cinnamon
a pinch of salt
4 free-range eggs
160 ml sunflower oil
250 g caster sugar
2 tsp vanilla essence
220 g peeled carrot, finely grated
200 g Bramley of Granny Smith apples, roughly grated
100 g walnuts, roughly chopped
100 g sultanas
50 g flaked coconut

50 g unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
75 g plain flour
25 g light muscovado sugar
50 g whole rolled oats
15 g sunflower seeds
25 g pumpkin seeds
15 g poppy seed (or black sesame seed)
1 tsp water
1 tsp sunflower honey
1 1/2 tbsp honey

Start by making the topping. In a bowl, stir together the butter, flour and sugar. Rub with your fingertips until the butter is incorporated and you have a crumbly texture. Mix in the oats and the seeds and then the water, oil and honey. Stir everything together resulting in a wet, sandy texture. Set aside.
Preheat the oven to 170 degrees Celsius/Gas mark 3. Line a muffin tray with paper cases.
Sift together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs, oil, sugar, vanilla and grated carrot and apple. Gently fold in the walnuts, sultanas, coconut and then the sifted flour mixture. Do not overmix, and don’t worry if the batter is lumpy and irregular. Spoon into the lined tins and scatter with topping generously over the top. Bake for about 25 minutes, until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean. Remove the muffins from the tins when they’re just warm and allow them to cool down before serving. Their flavour will actually improve after a couple of hours.

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