Kumara Sunflower Muffins

Makes 12
(No gluten, dairy, cane sugar, citrus or nightshades – with options for soy)

Flecked with herbs, veg and other contrasting colours and textures, these are so moist they don’t need butter and keep for days. Serve for brunch, use in lunch boxes, or make a quick batch for dinner to elevate eagerness for an accompanying soup or salad. Or mini muffin tin versions can be offered as fingerfood, or as part of an antipasto platter.

Most savoury muffins rely on lots of cheese for fat and flavour. Note here how the inclusion of moist kumara (sweet potato), tangy onion, crunchy sunflowers seeds and salty olives instead captures the palate’s interest. Your taste buds are receptors designed to register sweet, salty, savoury (also called umami), sour and bitter. The more these culinary notes are sounded in one mouthful, the more the palate interprets this as symphonic satisfaction. The other well received option is to coat the mouth with a comforting, flavour-harmonising layer of fat.

Absent from these receptors though is any long term, moral or nutritional concern. The palate’s only interest is to have a good time immediately. Recipes like this allow the seemingly divergent desires of the goddesses, Virtue and Venus, to be equally served without conflict.

1½ cups rice flour*
3 tsp gluten-free baking powder
1 tsp sea salt with kelp*
1 tsp dried dill leaf
1¼ cups grated orange kumara/sweet potato
¼ cup finely chopped spring onion (about 2 large)
¼ cup chopped olives (8-10 large)
¼ cup Sunflower Crunch (as below)
250 ml (1 cup) soymilk or oat milk*
60 ml (¼ cup) extra-virgin olive oil*
2 large free-range eggs
paper muffin liners

In a large bowl combine the flour, baking powder, salt and dill. Stir in the kumara, onion, olives and Sunflower Crunch. Make a well in the center. Into the well place the milk option, oil and eggs. Beat the wet ingredients until smooth. Stir the wet mixture into the dry ingredients. Pour into paper lined medium muffin pans. Each should be almost full. Bake at 180ºC (350°F)  for 20-25 minutes just until a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out dry. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Sunflower Crunch:

This is so tasty and popular, make extra and keep on hand for sprinkling over salads, steamed vegetables, soups, rice and pasta dishes. To store, place in a covered jar in the refrigerator. Keeps for weeks.

1/2 tsp extra-virgin olive oil*
1/4 cup sunflower seed kernels
1½ tsp cumin powder
2 tsp tamari (wheat-free, naturally fermented soy sauce*), or Vietnamese-
style clear fish sauce* (contains sugar but the natural fermentation process
makes it fine for most cane sugar-sensitivities).

Over low to medium heat, toast the seeds in oil for 2-3 minutes until lightly coloured. Add the cumin powder and cook 1 minute. Turn off the heat. Add the soy sauce (mixture will bubble). Remove from heat and cool to room temperature.

Shopping and Preparation Tips*

• Fish Sauce: refers to the amber, translucent Thai version (Nam Pla) or Vietnamese product (Nuoc Mam) available in small bottles in most supermarkets (near soy sauce or Asian foods section). It is made by fermenting small fish until a rich, salty liquid develops – similar in use and concept to soy sauce. Some contain a little sugar but due to lengthy fermentation this is usually tolerated by those cane sugar-sensitive. Chinese fish sauce is thick and brown like gravy, and not recommended due to the MSG (TIPS) and other artificial additives (also contains wheat).

• Milk Options: organic cow, goat, soy, oat, almond or hazelnut milk is available in most supermarkets. Or use rice milk – to each cup 1 Tbsp coconut cream can be added for more body. Use options in the same quantity as regular milk called for in recipes. Check packet milks for added sugar; ensure soy milk is made from the whole bean (less processed). Pure Harvest is a good brand with many varieties; whole, organic, no added sugar.

• Olive Oil: extra virgin olive oil is achieved by using cold mechanical pressure rather than the high heat and chemical solvents typical to most supermarket oils. These practices damage oils and the people who eat them. For information on which fats to choose for which purpose and why, see my article on the TIPS page: The Fats of Life.

• Rice flour:
for baking use finely ground (can be called ‘zentrofan’) whole rice. Results will not be the same with coarse, gritty flour; or Asian rice flour (from starch only; looks sticky like cornflour*). Use brown rice flour (finely milled; not gritty). Or mix ½ brown rice flour (for increased nutrients); ½ white rice flour (for increased lightness) as preferred. For sauces 2-3 Tbsp thickens 1 cup liquid.

• Sea salt:
is sea water dehydrated by sun. When mixed with seaweed (containing iodine and other minerals low in our soil) it is ideal in terms of flavour (interesting but not too strong) and mineral balance. Try Pacific Harvest or Malcolm Harker brands; both in health and gourmet stores. Ordinary salt is taken from mines or sea and so highly refined over extreme heat that it contains nothing but sodium chloride. All other minerals are stripped away, such as potassium and magnesium which help regulate fluid balance and blood pressure. Bleach as a whitener and chemicals to prevent clumping may be added to table salt.

• Soy sauce:
can be a fake, unfermented chemical concoction of caramel colouring, artificial additives, wheat and cheap salt. True soy sauce contains nothing artificial and is naturally brewed for two to three years. It is made by fermenting soybeans with the help of a healthful mould (similar to making yoghurt or cheese); roasted grain – usually wheat or barley – for flavour and fermentation, plus salt. ‘Shoyu’ is the Japanese word for true fermented soy sauce. ‘Tamari’ describes naturally brewed soy sauce which does not contain wheat or other grain. In the supermarket look for organic Ceres brand, or plain only Kikkoman (their other varieties usually contain artificial additives including MSG: TIPS).

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