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Wednesday, 13 March 2013

"The lady who writes the food thing"

I never thought it would ever come to this.

I am now officially "the lady who writes the food thing"

See, this morning I wasn't officially anything.
Except freezing that is.
I was (and still am) officially freezing. And if you never hear from me again, just know that I've frozen. And try to think of me fondly. Please?

But other than officially freezing, I wasn't officially anything.
But now?
Now is a whole new ball game. (I love Americanisms). (They're so quaint.)

Now, I'm officially "the lady who writes the food thing."

See, it was a normal grey, gloomy, cold, wet, snowy English day.
And I was just on my way home after dropping my toddling toddler to school, humming merrily along (twinkle twinkle little star, if you must know) (or as the toddling toddler puts it, "freeto leetto taar"), when a random lady on her way home after dropping her toddling toddler to (the same) school, stopped dead in her tracks outside the school gates and asked me if I was - "the lady who writes the food thing."

"Well, yes..." I said surprised and not a little un-flattered, "...I think so...?"

"Oh it's so nice to finally meet you!" she said giving my frozen hand a hearty shake with her frozen hand. All the mothers in Owls (name of room in school) are talking about you. We laaaaaaaave your writing," she concluded with a great big smile.

"Oh" I managed. With difficulty.

"Thanks..." I said with uncharacteristic shyness.
(for I am not the shy type)
(as you know)
(but I didn't know what else to say)

"Well," she continued - "this is great timing because we're going to be doing muffins at school next week and well, since you cook so well, can you do the courgette ones?"

Now I am of a fairly hardy disposition and not much leaves me stunned and at a loss for words.
But I was stunned and at a loss for words.

For the 3 below-mentioned reasons:

1) My toddling toddler is not in Owls. He's in Planets. As a matter of fact, he wanted to be Pluto, until I had to explain to him that Pluto has been stripped - rather cruelly, I might add - of it's erstwhile planet status. 
(So now he's Jupiter)
(No no, he's not U...well, the one with U)
(Hmph, you dirty people)

2) A muffin to my best and greatest knowledge is a mushroom shaped cake one eats for breakfast. And a courgette to my best and greatest knowledge is a vegetable that one eats at every meal but breakfast. How the 'twain meet was something I couldn't quite get my head around. All the same, I could have sworn she said courgette. 

3) (and most important) Had she got the wrong person? See, I don't bake. I don't. There's not a single (alright, alright, maybe a single) post on any dessert/bread/cake/muffin/doughnut/croissant/etc, on my blog. Surely, she's got the wrong person. There's got to be someone in Owls who writes a baked-goods food blog. There's got to be. There's no other logical explanation.

Anyway, so while I was pondering all of the above, I basically stood gawking at her for a good many minutes, stunned, and as I said, at a loss for words.

Which the lovely lady mistook for reluctance.

Because then she said with an anxious look clouding her face..."only if it's not a terrible imposition, of course"

So I did what had to be done by anyone who happens to find themselves in the situation I happened to find myself in. And I did it at once.
I shook my head rapidly back and forth. 
And said "No, of course not." "In fact I'd be delighted to"

"Brill" she said laughing jollily. "So 30 for the 2 rooms and some to spare?"

"Certainly" I managed, my voice reduced to a squeak.

"Wednesday then?"

I nodded.

"You did say courgette, right?" I called out hastily as she reached in her pockets for her gloves - a sign that the meeting was over, of course.

"Yes please!" came the happy reply.

(point number 2 answered)

"Baaaaaye yummyami," she yelled cheerily, waving as she turned right onto Priory Road.

Well, I think to myself, at least she isn't talking about someone else. How embarrassing that would have been.
Point number 3 answered then. A glimmer of hope.
Or is it?
Because, really. I cook. And I write. But I don't bake. I can't bake. 
See, when I cook, I cook by instinct. I chuck stuff in and somehow it ends up tasting ok. I don't remember what I do and I never make the exact same dish twice. Never. (I never follow my own recipes by the way, those are meant only for you).
I just write. I sit down and I write. I don't make drafts. And I don't make outlines. I don't write in word and transfer to blogspot. I just open blogspot and I write. I just write.

Now baking is a different story.
Baking requires measurements and precision and stuff.
I've never measured anything in my life.
Baking actually requires that elusive little thing called Talent.
Baking is the domain of the expert. It confounds me.

And so, basically, I am doomed. Or another word two letters down. Whatever you prefer, it's all the same to me.

Because when they taste my muffins (courgette at that. courgette muffins? Really??) they're going to know the truth. That I can't bake to save my life. And then they're going to stop meeting me outside the school gates and saying all these nice things. In fact, they're going to ignore me and snigger behind my back.


But I can't let that happen.
Oh no.
I have a reputation in these parts.

Which means of course that I need to practice. With the finesse of Wilhelm Kempff. Except in the kitchen, not on the piano. 

So I call my friend H who (unlike me) does know how to bake (that saviour, that golden angel) and ask her what to do. I learn from her that apparently, courgette muffins are actually very popular and (her words) "addictive."
So much for my ignorance.
(I'm still not convinced)
(I mean, I've written a piece on flavour combinations so I'm not that much of a prude when it comes to being experimental with food, but courgette muffins? I mean, really?)

Anyway, I'll stop banging on about how bizarre I think courgette muffins sound and get around to telling you how to actually make the creatures.
(we're making 12 for practice, folks)
(Oh and given I'm cooking for 2.5 year olds, I've simplified H's recipe bit - the original was better suited to a slightly more sophisticated palette...)

Here's what you need:
- 200g courgettes, trimmed and grated

- 50g mixed seeds such as pumkin, sesame, and sunflower

- 50g toasted almond flakes

- 4 tbsp clear (manuka anyone?) honey. (There goes the £25.99 by the way. All of it.)

- 175ml vegetable oil 

- 2 large free-range eggs

- 225g self-raising flour

- ½ tsp baking powder

- ½ tsp bicarbonate of soda

- 2 tsp ground cinnamon

- 1 tsp salt

- 200ml milk

- Grated zest of 2 limes

Here's how you do it:
Preheat the oven to 180°C and line a muffin tray with paper liners/muffin cases.

Grate the courgettes and squeeze to drain excess moisture, leave on a kitchen towel to dry.

Meanwhile, combine the milk, eggs, vegetable oil, and honey in a large bowl and whisk with an electric whisk for a few minutes until the texture is smooth and creamy. Sift over the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, cinnamon and salt. Now add in the almonds, grated courgette and lemon zest. 

Spoon the mixture into the muffin cases, leaving space for the muffins to rise, and cover with the mixed seeds. Bake for half an hour until a skewer comes out clean

Leave the muffins to cook in the tin, then transfer over to a wire rack until completely cool. Cool for 5 minutes in the tray then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

I am writing this as the muffins cool so I have no idea if they are any good or a complete and utter disaster, but I guess we'll all soon be finding out...

Not to jinx anything, but frankly they smell D-vine
(Even if I say so myself)
Courgette Muffins, huh? Who'd have thunk it? It's true what they say - one learns something new every day.

And on that note, can the Mummy Owl who's been reading my blog come out of the dark to say Whooo Whooo?? I'd love to meet you!!

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