Exploring new ingredients

Since moving to London earlier this year I have found that I have access to so many new ingredients!  My kitchen has bravely ventured into previously unchartered culinary waters, from ‘classics’ like a black pudding fry up and Toad in the Hole to cooking gorgeous local fish and Singapore style chilli crab (ok, that last one wasn’t me – I’m still a shellfish novice).

I have a couple of great independent health food stores near me in North London and love browsing for inspiration.  Today I made these delicious muffins:

Soaked Millet, Banana & Barberry muffins

I am not the best with recipes when I bake.  I know it’s risky, but I always seem to use a little less sugar, or flour, or add things.  So this recipe was loosely appropriated from the Millet Muffin recipe from Passionate Homemaking.  I started by leaving some organic millet flakes to soak overnight, out of the fridge in buttermilk, because I am exploring the benefits of soaking grains to improve their digestibility (you can read more about this here).

This morning I realised I should have also added the flour to the soaking mixture so I added wholemeal wheat flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and about 1/3 cup honey with 1/3 cup sunflower oil. I also added a little soy milk to help the mix stay moist.  Then I covered with my tea towel and left it soaking out of the fridge for around 5 hours.  Possible not enough time for the “anti-nutrients” (I still have a bit of trouble with that word) to be neutralised but I hope better than nothing.

Before spooning into my muffin tin I added 2 chopped bananas, a good shake of dried barberries (see below!), one beaten egg and some cinnamon.  I’m happy to say I added no other sugar or sweetners and that the honey and banana have done the job beautifully.

Oven fresh muffins with Greek yoghurt and raspberries

Of course it’s always great to tuck into fresh home-made muffins, but I also get very excited about the health benefits of these ingredients.  Millet is a wonderful gluten-free wholegrain that is high in B vitamins, magnesium and protein. It is a great source of nutrients and fibre.  Barberries are not available at home in Australia (as far as I’m aware..) so I am thrilled to get to experiment with them here in London.

The berries are the fruit of the herb Berberis vulgaris,  and have a range of medicinal actions focusing on the digestive system.  They contain plant chemicals which are anti-microbial, anti-inflammatory and regenerating to the lining of the gut, as well as being immune boosting.  They have a tart, almost sour flavour which offsets the sweet banana very well.  It could be because they are a great digestive stimulant, but I think I need to eat another muffin..