On my way to lunch yesterday at work, I walked past piles and piles of crisp, clean, genuine bank notes. You see, the building I work in doesn't accept credit or debit cards in the canteens, so there are a few cash machines littered around. Cash machines which, apparently, need refilling by a lone, harassed looking man in shirt sleeves, kneeling on the floor in front of the machine surrounded by wodges and wodges of cash. I'm not exaggerating, it was like a film where the mafia tries to buy someone's silence with a suitcase full of money, only it was on the floor right next to me and my shoe almost grazed it while I pretended, in a very English way, not to notice anything and walked straight past.
And in that moment, I felt the siren call of temptation shrieking in my ear. Something was telling me to grab one of those lumps of twenty pound notes - just one bundle, how restrained! - and leg it. Of course I didn't, because I'm a grown up and law-abiding and Stealing Is Wrong, but for a fraction of a second I really wanted to, just to see what would happen.
As if all that temptation wasn't bad enough, when I reached the canteen it was packed full of cakes, pudding and afternoon tea cakes. I have a firm respect for cake but after an incredibly greedy weekend, I have been trying to have a week of eating healthily. I had a salmon salad for lunch - she says, while polishing her halo - but I have to be honest, all I was able to think about all afternoon was pudding. Not a yoghurt, not a few nuts, not a half-arsed dried apricot or, pff, FRUIT. I just want a cake, something that's sweet and iced and crumbles in your mouth and leaves your fingers sticky with icing.
After a whole afternoon of obsessing, this was my best attempt at a compromise and frankly, I'm pretty impressed by my will of iron even getting to this stage. I've had my eye on these muffins for ages - from, you guessed it, Jamie Oliver - and with their butternut squash and no butter, I can practically kid myself that they're healthy. At least, they're healthy compared to Chocolate Guinness Cake, aka my mum's favourite cake but only because she hasn't seen the quantity of sugar and butter involved (I must never tell her).
I have to warn you, these make the most repulsive looking cake mix you can ever imagine. Because the butternut squash is just raw and chopped, the mix doesn't even taste that delicious - I am a staunch bowl-licker and I managed to resist this. Are you ready for the sight? Don't say I haven't warned you.
But don't let that stop you - these are really tasty, a sort of carrot cake / banana bread hybrid. Plus, in cake terms, these are practically health food - you could even have them for breakfast! Admittedly I don't get the cake for breakfast thing, being a staunch porridge girl, but I know that Americans go nuts for cakey breakfast goods and they can't all be wrong.
I will be cracking into these after lunch, at afternoon tea-time, and for an evening's pudding, and although they're full-on cake I don't even feel bad about it. Just don't mention the ice cream (what? It's pudding!).
Butternut Squash Muffins
Adapted from Jamie At Home
This is half of his recipe, and therefore makes 6 full-size muffins or, as here, 12 fairy-cake-sized ones
- 200g butternut squash, unpeeled but roughly chopped
- 175g light soft brown sugar
- pinch of salt
- 2 large eggs
- 200g plain flour
- 1 heaped teaspoon of baking powder
- handful of walnuts
- half a teaspoon of ground cinnamon
- 88ml of olive oil (well, as near as dammit)
For the icing
- juice of half a lemon
- enough icing sugar to make a drippy paste
Preheat the oven to 180 and put paper cases in a muffin or fairy cake tin.
Blitz the butternut squash in a food processor until chopped, then add everything else and whiz it until just mixed, scraping down the sides half way through if necessary. Dollop the mixture into the paper cases and bake for 20-25 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean.
For the icing, Jamie O suggests that you ice these with a mixture of soured cream, lemon juice and vanilla, decorating with clementine zest, lemon zest, dried lavender flowers and rose petals in a feat of extreme ponciness. I had none of the above, plus I was worried about whether the soured cream would mean that the muffins had to be kept in the fridge, so I just made a glace icing of lemon juice and icing sugar and drizzled it over. This gives the added bonus that you can swipe the drips with your finger for an instant sugar hit while decorating (this counts as cleaning so it's guilt free).
Scoff and comfort yourself with the thought that squash sort of counts as one of your five a day.