Cinnamon & pear muffins

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I’m finding myself with a lot of tinned goods recently, not unlike many people in our little shaky isles in the wake of our 7.8 earthquake.  It pays to be prepared.

I’ve heard the comment more than once that tinned pears are the least exciting of the tinned fruits….pale, bland, only good when topped with ice cream.  I had a hunch that this was wrong, but how to prove it?  By coupling tinned pears with brown sugar, butter and cinnamon, that’s how.

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I’ve taken my inspiration for the muffin base from Donna Hay’s basic muffin batter.  Which is delicious if you’re on the hunt for a reliable basic muffin, by the way.  I will of course buy a replacement tin of pears for our emergency food stash, but this idea for pear-topped muffins could not wait any longer.  Sunday night requires a sweet little pick-me-up, amiright?

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For these you will need (makes 12):

  • 1 cup plain flour
  • 1 cup wholemeal flour
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla essence

For the topping:

  • 1 tin of pear quarters, drained and cut into thin slices
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 knob of butter, melted

Method:

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees centigrade and grease a 12-cup muffin tin.

Place the dry ingredients into a large bowl and stir to combine.

In a smaller bowl, mix the egg, milk, oil and vanilla essence.  Add this to the dry ingredients and mix only until just combined.

Spoon the batter evenly into the muffin tray cups.  Arrange the sliced pears on the top of the batter.

Combine the topping ingredients and distribute over the top of the pears.

Bake for 25-30 minutes until a skewer comes out clean.

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Spiced bean and tomato soup

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Who doesn’t welcome a splash of colour for lunch at this grey and freezing time of year?  I know I do.  This spiced bean and tomato soup is on high rotation in my kitchen at the moment.  When it gets to Sunday night and I need to think about making lunch for the working week, my main thought is ‘get me to the sofa with some chocolate.’

So you can understand the appeal of a hearty, warming soup that is quick to prepare and does not involve leaving the house to fetch fancy-pants ingredients. If you have tinned tomatoes and tinned beans, you are halfway there, my friends.  Don’t be put off by what looks like a long ingredients list…I promise most of this will already be in your cupboard.  I enjoy the cayenne and turmeric in this as I find it gives it a nice, comforting heat without assaulting one’s delicate winter-tinged senses.  However the brave amongst you may wish to add a little more.

To make this soup, which yields 4-5 serves, you will need:

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  • 2 T olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 1 carrot, chopped
  • 1 t ground coriander
  • 1 t ground cumin
  • 1 t paprika
  • 1/2 t tumeric
  • 1/4 t cayenne pepper
  • 3 tins tomatoes
  • 2 T tomato paste
  • 2 cups water or chicken stock
  • 1 T brown sugar
  • 1 tin kidney beans
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Fresh coriander if you have it

Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat.  Add the garlic, celery and carrot and cook until soft, about 5 minutes.

Add all the spices and stir to combine with the oil.  Add the tomatoes, tomato past, stock or water and sugar.  Bring to the boil and then simmer for 20 minutes.

Drain and rinse the beans and add half to the pot, reserving the other half.  Simmer the soup another 5 minutes then remove from the heat and blend until as smooth as suits your fancy, if you wish to blend at all (I like a smooth soup, but appreciate that preferences vary widely).

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Add the remaining half tin of beans and season as fit, including the chopped fresh coriander if you have it to hand.  Return soup to the heat and bring to a simmer again.

It’s lovely served with a pita or tortilla heated in a fry pan with a little olive oil.  I also recommend it with a dollop of plain yoghurt or a generous sprinkle of my beloved tasty cheese.

This soup freezes well and keeps well for a good 5 days.  Stay warm, readers!

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