Sofafamily are breaking with tradition and having a Christmas brunch rather than our traditional late afternoon lunch. Cape Town is just magnificent at the moment, and we want to make the most of the wind-free days by heading down to the beach in the afternoon for a surf and a swim. ‘Popper Christmas’ (as the nieces and nephew call their Grandfather) will be handing out gifts at 10.30am, with the help of mimosas and watermelon bellinis, and a slightly unusual brunch will follow – campari-girl and I will be posting about the menus for our respective Christmas meals in due course. I came across this great muffin recipe by Nigella Lawson and thought it would make a perfect addition to our spread. Though I am going to alter her recipe slightly by adding in some pecan nuts, and by creating a marmalade butter. But the rest is all Nigella inspiration and simplicity and will make the house smell gloriously Christmassy.
250g plain flour
2.5 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
100g caster sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg (or if you are lucky enough to have it – a generous grating of fresh nutmeg)
2 clementines (aka satsumas or naartjies as we call them in SA) for juicing and zesting
125 ml full fat milk
75 ml vegetable oil
1 egg (go organic if you can)
175g dried cranberries
150g pecan nuts – halved
3 teaspoons demerara sugar (for the topping)
- Preheat the oven to 200°C/gas mark 6. Line a 12-bun muffin tin with muffin papers
- Measure out the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, caster sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg into a large bowl
- Grate the zest of the clementine/satsuma over, and combine
- Squeeze the juice of the clementines/satsumas into a measuring jug, and add milk to reach 200ml
- Add the oil and egg, and lightly beat until just combined
- Pour mixture into the bowl of dried ingredients and stir until everything is more or less combined (A Nigella tip – remember that a too well-beaten mixture makes for heavy muffins:in this case a lumpy batter is a good thing!)
- Fold in the cranberries and pecans, then spoon the batter into the muffin cases and sprinkle the demerara sugar on top
- Bake for 20 minutes, until golden brown and deliciously fragrant
- Eat them as they are, or halve and spread with plain or marmalade butter (see below)
125g unsalted butter at room temperature
125 ml strong, tart marmalade (I’m loving lemon ginger at the moment) – perfect if it is a bit chunky
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
- Blend a strong tart marmalade, slightly softened unsalted butter and a pinch of kosher salt with a hand blender or a food processor until light and fluffy.
- Form into a pat and chill until firmed up.
- Serve in curls (scraped off the surface of the butter pat with a hot teaspoon or butter curler) or in small squares/hearts.
These muffins will be just as good or even yummier for breakfast on Boxing Day, lightly toasted and served with a hot, nutty coffee. Can’t wait.