Saturday, 1 May 2010

Early Morning Sunshine

The glorious weather of late April has mostly vanished, unsurprisingly, in time for the bank holiday weekend. But I can let you into a little secret ... if you wake just before dawn - open your eyes as the birds are starting to stir and the sky begins to lighten - then by the time you are sat with that first coffee of the morning and are awake enough to appreciate it - the sun will be shining in a gloriously clear sky. Chances are it will be gone by 8am when most are rousing themselves for the start of the long weekend, but one of the compensations of waking so early every morning is seeing that early morning sun. No matter how wet and windy the recent days have turned out to be I have had some early alone time with the sun which goes a long way to lifting low spirits.

Another highlight of my day has been checking on my seeds. My previous attempts at 'gardening' usually extend only as far as placing bought pots of blooming hydrangeas around my garden, enjoying their mop-headed beauty before butchering them at the end of the season with the secateurs, a pruning from which they never quite recover. My small garden is littered with lopsided, near-corpses from previous years. To date the thing I am most proud of in my garden is not killing the poppy and christmas rose that were already established when I moved in ten years ago. I have, however, been seduced by the BBC2 series 'Edible Garden' something about the programme made growing my own veg, from seed, seem possible. Whilst part of the attraction of the half hour slot is coveting Alys Fowler's beautiful garden - and wondering why I can't manage to pull off the wearing of wellington boots in quite the same way - the big draw for me is the flexibility she conveys in how and what you can grow in a limited space. By choosing the right varieties, or just harvesting early, the smallest of spaces will hopefully provide some ingredients for my kitchen.

One thing I knew I wanted to grow was courgettes, I hope for a glut so I can bake with them, grate and add to my porridge, I'm also hoping for beetroot - again for the baking possibilities. There are radish which I hope to nibble on and I am hopeful for dwarf beans and kale. All have germinated so far, other than the beetroot which are being a little shy and the chili seeds. There's still time. It's all quite exciting.

So, early Saturday morning, with the earliest morning sun shining on my my seeds, me feeling so proud (and more than a little grateful that the cat hasn't watered the trays too) I aimed for the perfect morning by baking. I had bookmarked an Orange Marmalade Tea Cake back in February from Deeba's blog 'Passionate about Baking' which is one of my favourite sites. Her photo's are stunning and whilst I couldn't hope to recreate most of what she does in terms of presentation and styling I had all the ingredients for this cake.

I made made a few changes to the recipe Deeba lists, which she herself had adapted, I used half wholemeal flour and reduced the sugar as well as adding a little ginger. I also doubled the quantities listed for a loaf cake as I had plenty of courgettes and went with muffins for easier distribution (and less washing up). Deeba used some, no doubt stunning, homemade bitter orange marmalade and the run of the mill jar I had handy could've done with being a bit tarter, perhaps some additional zest would've added a bit more zing. If you're going to make this and buy marmalade specifically for it I would go for a sharper variety with decent chunks of orange rind, I might even make again with a smattering of stem ginger. As they are below they are so light, with each bite offering a slightly different taste or texture due to the distribution of the orange, walnuts and chocolate chips. In honour of the hour when these were baked I have rechristened them...

Sunshine Muffins

Makes 16 muffins or 2 5" x 9" Loaves

262g plain flour
262g wholemeal flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp ground ginger
2 tsp vanilla extract
500g grated courgettes (approx 4 small)
1 cup / 375g marmalade (approx one jar)
250g caster sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
4 large eggs
1 cup toasted and chopped walnuts
1 cup chocolate chips

Preheat your oven to 175C and line muffin tins with papers
Mix together the flour, baking powder, bicarb, salt and spices.
Mix all the other ingredients, except the walnuts, in a large bowl until combined , making sure there are no large lumps of marmalade.
Sift the dry ingredients into the wet
Stir in the walnuts then fill the muffin cases to just over 3/4 full each (I used a 1/4 cup measure, the muffins don't rise that much)
Bake for 25 minutes until the tops are starting to brown and are firm to the touch, or until a skewer comes out clean.


  1. Hi Lisa - thanks for your comment on my blog about the rum, raisin and apple cake. I bought my applesauce at Sainsbury's - they seem to be doing a new own-brand SMOOTH applesauce, which is perfect for baking! Before that I always made my own.

  2. Hilary, many thanks I will look it out, there are so many recipes I discount as I'm far too lazy to make my own, quite admirable that you do that.

  3. You need apple sauce? I know plenty of places you can get it near me (and I'm sure near you).

    Lisa, you CANNOT put courgette in your porridge. Next you'll be suggesting marmite in it. Although, saying that I've seen quite a few recipes for savoury oats lately. Sounds like gruel.

  4. PS yummy cakes. and also I nearly cried in your first paragraph. But I think it might be my over-sensitivitiy!