Sweet Potato, Goats’ Cheese and Walnut Muffins

Muffins

At the moment, I’m loving the chill in the air that signals early Autumn. The leaves are starting to turn, the days are drawing in and there’s already a sense of anticipation about the ‘C’ word. I also want to eat nothing but orange vegetables. Carrots, sweet potato and butternut squash become a staple of my weekly trip to the greengrocers. Most often I roast them with spices such as cumin and cinnamon, but also enjoy them simply boiled and mashed with lots of butter and salt.

Corn

Sweet potato is so versatile, being equally at home in sweet and savoury recipes. The unassuming knobbly vegetable lends itself really well to being baked into cakes. Vegetables in cakes is nothing new – if you go beyond the undeniable cliché of carrot cake there’s a whole new world out there. I’ve got a whole cookbook dedicated to cakes which contain all manner of vegetables, from courgette and lemon cakes to aubergine in brownies (yes, really).

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My friend Clare and I thought that some gentle Sunday afternoon baking was in order. So we decided to use the sweet potato to make some savoury muffins, utilising the natural sweetness of the vegetable to combine with the sour goats cheese. We used a combination of wholemeal, plain and polenta flour in this recipe, giving the muffins a slightly grainy texture and a more full flavour. But if you don’t want to faff around with this just use plain or wholemeal. The general muffin method is to mix together all the dry and all the wet ingredients and fold one into the other. The highlight for me of making these muffins was mashing the boiled sweet potato together with a frankly obscene amount of butter into a gooey puddle, then eating a sneaky spoonful (or three).

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Pasta with Peas, Goats’ Cheese and Rocket

Pasta

Going completely vegetarian has always been a non-starter for me, as the second I contemplate cutting out meat I immediately begin fantasizing about chargrilled steak.  However, at university I went through a semi-vegetarian phase. I started buying better quality meat, and consequently, as I was an impoverished student, eating much less of it.

Montage

I think vegetarian meals force you to be a bit more inventive and imaginative. It forces you to think outside the meat-and-two-veg box. Instead of relying on meat as the star of the meal, and everything else as secondary, meals become a collection of equally important elements.

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This is one of the things I cooked a lot during my effort to eat less meat. I’ve always been a devoted fan of pasta, and peas for that matter, so I liked this dish before I’d even tried it.

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Blending the peas with goats’ cheese and a hit of garlic into a creamy sauce works along the pesto lines of yumminess, whilst the rocket adds a peppery freshness. If you’re one of those individuals who absolutely can’t resist adding meat to everything, top with some pieces of streaky bacon, fried to a crisp.

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