blackberry and coconut muffins. and friendship

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In recent years, I’ve become more and more aware of how blessed I am to have lifelong friends. Friends who I know (with absolute certainty) will be there during the highest points of my life whilst also traversing the earth-shattering lows. Friends like these are a rarity in the transient nature of modern life. I’ve somehow been blessed with a few.

I’ve written a few times on this blog about one of my best friends, the absolute treasure who answered to Hippy Vic (I’m using past tense as she’s progressively abandoned the blogging game). It was her birthday on Monday and I still haven’t given her a hug.

It frustrates me how life has steadily crowded out the times when we just used to sit and breathe. Nights when we’d talk unrestricted til the air grew cold and the sun emerged from hiding. I miss smiling til my face hurt and soaking in the relentless swell of youth.

At least it seemed relentless; perennial in the best of ways, tinged with blissful ignorance and folly. But youth finally faded, as it always does. Responsibility awakened like a lofty giant. Age brought maturity, and with that came both beauty and perpetual loss. I’m trying to appreciate both.

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Back to the issue of time, or rather, lack of it. I’m sure most (if not all) of you can relate to the burden of conflicting responsibilities, the absorbent qualities of full-time work and the joy (but occasionally overwhelming nature) of parenthood. I often experience pressing guilt or regret after choosing to do one thing over another. I also spend endless moments reflecting upon what I want to do as opposed to what I need to do. This year, I wanted it to end.

Last weekend, I spent some very deliberate time reflecting upon how I spend the majority of my waking hours. The past ten years have been largely consumed with study and work, the remainder being fragmented into time with family and friends. I’ve long been aware of a glaring imbalance between time spent with lifelong friends and that spent with ‘incidental acquaintances’, i.e. colleagues or people attached to my personal pursuits. All very nice people, mind you. But not those whom I’d call ‘sisters’ when I’m old and grey.

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I’ll spare you the rest of my weekend contemplation. Let’s skip through to some very purposeful time spent last Sunday eating muffins on the crest of a hill. Time spent chatting in the cool of the morning until hours disappeared and the afternoon arrived.

Time spent with my other best friend and heart sister, Lucy.

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We arrived around 9:00am, armed with fresh pencils, paints, snacks, one furkid (Loki) and our two favourite boys (Aaron and Lucy’s little boy, Isaac). Over the course of the morning, we etched images on paper, cracking almonds with our teeth and breathing the scent of warm eucalyptus.

Lucy was Lucy, beautifully creative, always kind and encouraging. The same strong-but-gentle woman whom I’ve had the pleasure of knowing for over fifteen years. She’s seen me crumble under pressure and glow with happiness on my wedding day.

I’m so, so grateful for the journey that we’ve taken together. And most of all, I look forward to the days to come.

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So, back to Sunday. Before leaving the park, we took Isaac to Synergy parkland to climb stone dinosaurs and eat rainbow ice creams. Loki nosed around in the wood chips, making friends with stray children and chasing abandoned balls.

We lay on freshly watered grass which left stains on our clothing and huge smiles on our faces. We loved every minute and, as usual, we’ve promised to ‘do it again soon’.

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And this time, we will.

I’m already baking the muffins.

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Blackberry and Coconut Muffins

Makes 18

  • 1/2 cup coconut yoghurt (I used CO YO, substitute natural yoghurt)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 cup organic, cold-pressed coconut oil
  • 1/4 cup almond milk (substitute oat or dairy milk)
  • 2 free-range eggs
  • 1 cup organic oat flour
  • 2 cups plain flour
  • 1 cup coconut sugar
  • 1 tbsp coconut flour
  • 2 cups frozen or fresh blackberries
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking (bicarbonate) soda
  • Optional: coconut nectar and coconut chips/flakes, to garnish

Preheat your oven to 180 degrees C (350 degrees f). Whisk the yoghurt, water, eggs, milk and coconut oil together in a large bowl.

Add the remaining ingredients and mix until just combined.

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Spoon into lined or greased muffin pans and bake for 20-30 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.

If using coconut nectar, prick holes into the top of the muffins and drizzle over a little coconut nectar whilst still warm. Garnish with toasted coconut chips.

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blackberry coconut slice

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There’s something beautifully satisfying about a crumbly slice, particularly one that’s dense with buttery oats and sweet summer berries. They take me back to the hazy days of my childhood, small feet pounding on linoleum as I ran to the kitchen for afternoon tea.

When I was tiny, my mother had a knack for incorporating fruits, vegetables and wholegrains into her baking repertoire. It wasn’t just for ‘concealment’ purposes; rather, she just preferred carrot, lemon or apple spice cake over dense chocolate cake and Victoria sponge. Wise woman.

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In my own kitchen, I’ve adopted the same principles, partly for health reasons and wholly to please my own taste buds. Crunchy oats, earthy spelt and nut flours, moist fruits and ancient grains… they sing a grand chorus when mixed together into a cake, granola bar, muffin or pie.

I also habitually throw fresh leafy herbs and ground spices into my cake recipes (click here and here for some examples) for added complexity and flavour. The savoury notes both compliment and accentuate the fragrant baked fruits in the most beautiful of ways. Needless to say, it’s a habit that I’m disinclined to break.

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This slice celebrates everything that’s beautiful, sweet and unctuous about summer fruit. Plump, ripe berries picked from the last of the season’s brambles, sandwiched between buttery oats and earthy spelt flour.

As the heat of early March slowly dulls under a blanket of fallen autumn leaves, it’s getting harder to find fresh Australian berries. Admittedly, half of the blackberry fruit in this post was cooked from frozen due to low supplies at my local market. However, when sinking my teeth into a jammy oat slice with crunchy wholegrains and coconut, it no longer mattered. I was grasping summer’s bounty with floured hands and a happy heart.

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These bars make a beautifully transportable morning tea when wrapped in foil or brown paper. The fruit, cooked down to a jammy consistency, is slightly sticky but largely protected by the resilient oat crust.

They’re also lovely as a dessert, served slightly warm with a scoop of yoghurt or vanilla ice cream. Blissful, wholesome goodness (of which my mother would definitely approve).

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Blackberry Coconut Slice
Adapted from this recipe by Good Food

Makes 24 squares

  • 240g wholegrain spelt flour
  • 50g wholegrain organic oats
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • 275g organic panela or rapadura sugar (substitute light brown sugar)
  • 200g cold butter, cut into pieces
  • 75g shredded coconut
  • 2 medium free-range eggs, beaten
  • 350g fresh or frozen berries (I used blackberries and raspberries)

Preheat your oven to 180 degrees C (350 degrees f). Grease and line a 31 x 17cm slice tin.

Place the spelt flour and baking powder into a flour sifter or fine sieve. Sift through twice to evenly distribute the raising agent. Place the sifted flour into a large bowl with the oats, butter and panela sugar.

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Rub in the butter with your fingertips until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs (alternately, you can chuck the dry ingredients and the butter into a food processor and pulse it until it reaches the right consistency).

Stir through the shredded coconut. Measure 1 teacupful of the mixture (about 170g) and set it aside for the crumbly topping. Add the eggs to the remaining bowl of mixture and mix thoroughly.

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Spread the mixture evenly over the base of your lined baking tin. Smooth out firmly with your fingers or the back of a spoon.

Scatter over the berries, ensuring that they’re evenly distributed across the base. Scatter over the reserved crumble topping.

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Transfer the slice to your preheated oven and bake for 60-75 minutes, or until the top is golden and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out with only moist crumbs attached.

Leave to cool before slicing into 24 squares.

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