At this time of the year in Delhi, apart from the brief flicker of the Lohri flames, the festive season has ground to a halt and our days are cold and grey. We’re all struggling to stay warm and our immune systems are at their annual low. Many of us are on diets and detoxes but even if we’re not we yearn for sustaining, healthy food; vibrant soups, comforting stews are the order of the day. But even if we’re trying to steer clear of sugary, fatty treats, that can be exactly what we crave on these freezing, foggy January days.
I know I can’t get through the afternoons without tea and a little sweet mouthful. I tend to crave something that at least has some nutritional benefit, like banana bread or oaty flapjacks.
Today’s muffin recipe is trying its hardest to be healthy. Out goes the white flour and sugar and in comes the demerara and atta (wheat flour) and I’ve used sunflower oil instead of butter. There’s a dose of heart-boosting omega-3 fatty acids from the walnuts as well as vitamin C from the kinnow (tangerine) juice. They even contain, wait for it—green vegetables.
Courgette (or zucchini, to give them their Italian name) is a recent sight in Delhi markets but judging by the rate at which they have started to appear everywhere—even my local horse and cart sabzi wallah has jugni tucked in with mooli (radish), and gajar (carrot)—Indian farmers are discovering what an easy crop the courgette is to grow. This delicate vegetable is essentially a marrow that has been picked before it turns into a giant, watery gourd, ideally about 6 inches long. They have a mild flavour and are often char-grilled for pasta dishes and salads or used for dishes like ratatouille.
In America, zucchini bread (actually a cake), usually flavoured with sweet spices, is a popular home-bake. These muffins, as well as imparting a subtly delicious flavour and delicate pale green flecks to the sponge, also manage to make you feel a little virtuous. The kinnow, which is at its vibrant, zesty best at the moment, is a perfect partner and the orangey icing looks particularly pretty against the green of the courgette. They should probably be available on prescription until at least mid-February.
Courgette and Kinnow Muffins
2 tsp baking powder
½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
½ tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp nutmeg
¼ tsp ground cloves
200g demerara sugar
Finely grated zest of 2 kinnows
50ml kinnow juice
100ml sunflower oil
350g grated courgette, unpeeled
75g chopped walnuts
200g icing sugar
4 tbsp kinnow juice
Preheat the oven to 190 degrees Celsius. Line a 12-hole large muffin tray with paper muffin cases. In a large bowl sift together the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves. In another bowl whisk the sugar, eggs, zest, 50ml juice and oil until thick and foamy, about 3-4 minutes.
Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir gently with a metal spoon. These are muffins, not cupcakes, so the wet and dry ingredients need to be lightly mixed just enough so that no flour is visible—the mixture should look quite lumpy. Then gently stir in the grated courgette and chopped walnuts.
Spoon the mixture evenly into the 12 paper cases, then bake for about 20 minutes until the tops are nicely browned and a skewer inserted into a muffin comes out with a few crumbs clinging to it.
While the muffins are baking, make the icing by sifting the icing sugar into a bowl and using the 4 tbsp of kinnow juice to mix it into a smooth paste. When the muffins are ready, take them out of the oven and leave to cool for a few minutes before drizzling the icing over the top. The muffins will keep in an airtight container for a couple of days. Un-iced they also freeze well.
Pamela Timms is a Delhi-based journalist and food writer. She blogs at Eatanddust.com
Also Read | Pamela’s previous Lounge columns