A day out in the countryside or in an inner-city park is best spent with plenty of yummy provisions, I find, such as muffins. To me, of course, they are usually of the sugary kind and coupled with a cup of milky coffee as a firm part of my afternoon routine, but muffins can be real savoury treats, too!
These chewy, aromatic little cakes receive their wonderful aroma from nutmeg, the buttery crunch from roasted pine nuts and the strong, uncanny umami taste and saltiness from the Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese – a true feast for the senses! As an extra treat for the eyes, garnish the Parmigiano-Reggiano and spinach muffins with a dollop of nutmeg-spiced cream cheese and a crispy Parmigiano-Reggiano round made from grated cheese. These muffins are the perfect finger food for filling up your picnic basket as well as making wonderful party nibbles and stunning brunch displays.
For 10 muffins
For the batter:
- 280g mixed, plain flours (white and wholemeal)
- 1 tbsp. baking powder
- 2 large eggs
- 225ml milk
- 75ml vegetable oil (extra oil for greasing the muffin moulds)
- 60g Parmigiano-Reggiano, grated
- 100g baby leaf spinach
- 50g pine nuts
- 1 tsp. sea salt
- ½ tsp. black pepper
- ½ tsp. ground nutmeg
- 1 pinch sugar
- 2 garlic cloves, chopped
- 1 tsp. butter
For the decoration (optional):
- 280g cream cheese
- 10 tbsps. grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
- 1 tsp. ground nutmeg
- Thoroughly wash the spinach leaves. Melt butter in a pan and add the spinach. Stir frequently with a wooden spoon or heatproof spatula. Cook the spinach for approx. 5 minutes. Let it cool off.
- In a mixing bowl, combine the flours with baking powder. Add eggs, milk, grated Parmigiano-Reggiano and vegetable oil. Season the batter with sea salt, black pepper, ground nutmeg and sugar. Stir well until the batter is smooth and free of lumps.
- In a dry frying pan, roast the pine nuts until they brown. Let them cool of briefly before adding them to the batter as well. Add the cooked spinach to the batter along with the chopped garlic. Use a tablespoon to fold in the spinach, garlic and pine nuts and stir until the mixture is uniform.
- Pre-heat the oven to 170°C (fan).
- Take a large muffin tray (12 moulds) or two small trays and use a pastry brush to grease the moulds with vegetable oil.
- Use a tablespoon to evenly divide the batter among the moulds. It should suffice for at least 10 muffins. Bake in the oven for about 20-25 minutes, middle rack, at 170°C.
- For the Parmigiano-Reggiano rounds (decoration) take a Champagne glass or similar (ø3cm), fill it with a tablespoonful of grated Parmigiano-Reggiano and turn it over on a flat baking tray covered with non-stick baking paper. Repeat the process until you have produced then evenly round mounds of Parmigiano-Reggiano. Make sure that there is enough space between the cheese mounds so they won’t fuse together. Bake them in the oven for approx. 10 minutes, and then leave them to cool off.
- In the meantime, use a small bowl to mix the cream cheese with the ground nutmeg. Stir well. Once the muffins are done and have cooled off, decorate them with a heaped teaspoonful of nutmeg cream cheese whip each and top off with a Parmigiano-Reggiano round.
Disclaimer: This recipe has been edited. It was first published on 12/07/2016 for GloTIME, http://www.glotime.org/parmigiano-reggiano-spinach-muffins-pine-nuts/ in cooperation with Castelli (www.castelli-uk.com)
This recipe has subsequently appeared in the Sunday Telegraph Living Feature (print edition) on 11/09/2016 and online on First Press (http://first-press.co.uk/tesco-parmigiano-reggiano) as well as in the November 2016 (No 186) edition of the Observer Food Monthly, in cooperation with Castelli.
Author: Danica Utermohlen
Picture credits: Danica Utermohlen