Tea in the sun with chocolate banana muffins and spinach ricotta puffs

It’s official. It’s winter, and it’s freezing. We’ve been having overnight frosts and top daytime temps of 10°C. I know some countries get waaaay colder than this, but we spent the first 18 years of our lives in a country that did not see temps lower than 28°C so when the sun came out last weekend, we milked it for all it was worth, and had a lovely sunny tea outside. It was also a really special occasion- a friend of ours had recently got engaged, and that finally pushed us to catch up! M was the first friend I made in undergrad- she sat next to me during our first ever Psych lab. And many a Tim Tam shared while sitting under a tree later, we find it quite hard to meet up even though we live in the same city.

But, last weekend, we finally made it to her beautiful house overlooking a lake, that is really only 10 minutes away from us. I decided to make a variation of my banana muffins, because we had some very ripe bananas and I wanted to add something a bit different to it. And any celebration calls for chocolate! I used my basic banana recipe, which you can find here, and put 2 squares of dark chocolate in the middle of the batter (ie in your muffin case, put in some banana batter, then chocolate in the middle, and top off with more batter, but only fill your cases 3/4 way up).

I never bake with compound chocolate. As for cooking with wine, you should only bake with chocolate that is good enough to eat. Trust me, you will appreciate the difference. The recipe yields about 12 muffins, and they should take about 30 minutes to cook. Watch them, and they will be done when the tops of the muffins are a golden brown. The skewer method won’t really work with these muffins as the chocolate will be all melty in the centres… mmmm!

M is a fantastic cook! In uni, I used to savour the potato curry and roti she used to make, and over the years, both soy and I been fortunate to sample the range of her culinary repertoire from lasagne to rice paper rolls. When we arrived at her house, she was in the midst of putting together some spinach and ricotta puffs. I don’t think M was working off a a recipe, because these are so easy to make!

Spinach and ricotta puffs

Fresh ricotta cheese

Spinach (either fresh- chopped finely or frozen)

1 egg, separated

Frozen puff pastry sheets

Salt and pepper

Just mix some fresh ricotta (from the deli section) with an equal part of spinach and bind with an egg white. Season well with salt and pepper or any other spice you feel like. Cut a frozen puff pastry sheet into quarters. Place the ricotta filling on the pastry sheet, roll, and brush with the beaten egg yolk. Bake until the pastry is flaky and golden brown.The egg wash gives the puff a lovely golden sheen.

The puffs are flaky and the filling is pillowy soft. What I love about these puffs is that they taste so much better than anything I’ve bought in the shops. I used to get all excited about spinach and fetta triangles from the bakery, but they tended to always be too salty and oily. I think the ricotta in these puffs give them a much lighter and delicate flavour.

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