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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prosciutto and roast sweetcorn muffins

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This coming Sunday, my beautiful friend Elissa (doctor and haiku writer extraordinaire) is moving to the port city of Bunbury from Perth, Western Australia. That’s 175 kilometres away; a great chunk of bitumen framed by dirt, trees and a kangaroo if you’re lucky.

No, it’s not the end of the world, or even the end of Western Australia. But it’s far enough to mean no last minute coffee dates, weeknight dinners or Rage-a-thons on Friday nights. For the next six-or-so months, our ‘dates’ will require a full tank of fuel and a sizeable drive. And a packed lunch (if you’re a Hobbit like me).

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Understandably, the past fortnight has been a series of goodbye events for those of us in Elissa’s friendship group; particularly her beautiful bestie Deanne and… well, me (also known as ‘sisterling’, as we’ve been happily mistaken for sisters more than once).

The first of these goodbye events was two weeks ago; an afternoon tea at Elissa’s apartment for a small group of girlfriends. We drank tea from pretty cups whilst feasting on anecdotes, crudites, taramasalata, soft cheese and corn muffins with Parmesan and smoky paprika.

The latter were made by myself and Deanne with occasional help from a spotty-socked Kelpie named Lucy (below; she smiles for pig’s ears).

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lucy1Throughout the course of an afternoon, Deanne and I chatted, laughed, baked and cried. Somehow in the midst of that, these muffins emerged from the oven.

Despite the fact that I met Deanne through our mutual friendship with Elissa, I feel very blessed to have her in my life. She’s one of the most genuine, transparent, loving and generous hearts I have ever met on this earth. Her second blog Gratitude, All the Time is testament to that.

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But back to the muffins: these were real crowd-pleasers. Moist, soft, sweet with blackened corn and salty with crisp prosciutto. They also had some added kick from the fragrant smoked paprika (Elissa referred to it as the ‘secret ingredient’ and I’d have to agree).

As for the recipe, Dea found it here via Good Food. We made a few edits, including the addition of dried parsley (there wasn’t enough of the fresh herb in the pot) and the substitution of whole milk for buttermilk (as Dea doesn’t believe in buttermilk. I think. Or something like that).

smokedpaprikaI’ve included an edited but unabridged version of the recipe below in case you’d like to try them. They’re simple and very forgiving (trust me, we interrupted the process multiple times).

Dea and I also feel that the muffins would be highly adaptable for those who prefer to exercise some artistic license. Chipotle and lime butter, anyone?

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Prosciutto and Roast Sweetcorn Muffins

Adapted from this recipe by Good Food.

Makes 12 regular-sized muffins

  • 200g canned corn kernels, drained (or fresh kernels from 2-3 cobs, removed)
  • 6 slices prosciutto
  • 225g self-raising flour, sifted
  • tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tbsp castor sugar
  • tsp sea salt
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 150ml buttermilk
  • 80g butter, melted and cooled
  • 2 tbsp chopped parsley
  • 2 tbsp grated Parmesan or cheddar cheese

Preheat your oven to 190 degrees C (374 degrees f). Drain your canned corn and scatter it over a lined oven tray.

corntrayBake for 10-15 minutes or until slightly blackened around the edges. Leave to cool.

Add the flour, paprika, cumin, sugar and sea salt to a large mixing bowl.

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In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs, buttermilk and melted butter. Add in the parsley and all but one tablespoon of the corn, mixing well.

Make a well in the centre of the flour mixture, then add in the egg and milk. Combine very lightly with a fork until thick and clumpy. Do not overmix.

Lightly oil twelve regular-sized muffin holes. Line the sides of each hole with a slice of prosciutto.

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Divide the mixture between the muffin holes, filling right to the top. Scatter over the remaining corn kernels and Parmesan cheese.

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until golden (an inserted skewer should come out clean).

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Serve these muffins warm with butter, cream cheese and/or tomato chutney. They are best consumed on the day they were made.

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Elissa: thanks for being the genuinely beautiful friend that you are. Have a safe trip down to Bunno and know that we’re coming to visit you very, very soon (in fact, you’d better put the kettle on. You may never get rid of us).

Deanne: you’re amazing. You deserve to be treasured for the incredibly generous and wise person that you are. I look forward to our next cook-up very soon!

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