Muffins for spring: Ramp Pesto Muffins and Carrot Purée Muffins

ramp_carrot_muffins1.jpg

Spring is the time for one of my favorite vegetables - the mildly garlicky wild greens known as ramps, wild garlic, ramsons and so on in English. Ramps are still too obscure to be cultivated much, so you can only get them for a short time - which is not a bad thing really, because then you can look forward to them for the rest of the year. Carrots on the other hand are available year-round, but locally grown spring carrots just seem to be sweeter and tastier.

The best way in my opinion to capture the essence of ramps is to turn it into a pesto, a very easy thing to do if you have a food processor. And I've recently discovered the joys of carrot purée - finely shredded carrots that are steam-braised with a little butter just until they are tender, then mashed. And then, you can turn the concentrated vegetable paste in either case into a delicious savory muffin.

These little muffins take a bit of effort to make, since you need to make a pesto or a puree of vegetables first. But they are worth it. The muffin batter itself is very easy. Make a batch at a time and freeze the extras. If you make them small enough, you can pull one out of the refrigerator in the morning and it will be defrosted and fresh-tasting at lunch time.

Recipe: Ramp Pesto Muffins

rampmuffin-inside.jpg

Savory muffins that are flavored with garlicky ramps. Great for bentos, especially when made in mini-size.

Prep time: 20 min (included time to make the pesta) :: Cook time: 30 min :: Total time: 50 min

Yield: 24 mini muffins or 8-10 regular sized muffins

Serving size: 1-2 mini muffins

Ingredients:

  • 200g/7oz all-purpose flour, about 2 U.S.cups, though try to weigh it for accuracy
  • 2 teaspoons baking owder
  • 3 large eggs
  • 120ml / 1/2 U.S. cup buttermilk, you can substitute plain yogurt
  • 6 tablespoons ramp pesto, recipe below
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • several grinds black pepper

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C / 360°F
  2. Sift the flour and baking powder together. Set aside.
  3. In a bowl, whisk the eggs well, and add the buttermilk. Beat well to combine. Add the pesto and beat in. Add the sifted flour mixture, salt and pepper, and stir well to combine.
  4. Spoon into muffin molds or tins. Bake for 25 minutes for mini muffins, 30-35 minutes for larger muffins.
  5. Cool completely before packing into freezer-proof containers or bags to freeze. Muffins do go stale rather fast, so eat them within a day of baking and freeze the extras.

Recipe: Ramp pesto

Yield: Makes about 1 cup (240ml). Prep/cooking time is about 10 minutes.

About 2/3rds of this is used in the muffin recipe, so keep the rest for a pesto-pasta meal!

Ingredients:

  • 1 large bunch ramps, to yield 4 cups when roughly chopped
  • 120ml / 1/2 cup olive oil
  1. Carefully wash the ramps, especially if they were gathered wild. Pat dry with paper towels. Chop them up roughly.
  2. Put the ramps in a food processor with the chopping blade. Process until finely chopped. Add the olive oil as the motor is running, until a fine, bright green paste is formed. At this point you can add salt if you like, but I like to leave the salt out and put it in when using the pesto. 3, The pesto will keep for a day in the refrigerator. Freeze the pesto by putting it in a ziplock bag and pressing flat. You can then break a bit off at a time whenever you need it.

Recipe: Carrot Purée Muffins

carrotmuffin-inside.jpg

These have a wondeful salty-sweet flavor.

The yields and cooking times are about the same as for the ramp muffins, but allow extra time to make the carrot puree since you have to cook the carrots. You can make the puree in advance.

Ingredients:

  • 200g / 7oz (about 2 cups, though try to weigh it for accuracy) all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3 large eggs
  • 120ml / 1/2 cup buttermilk (or yogurt)
  • 5 tablespoon. carrot puree (recipe below)
  • 80 ml / 1/4 cup olive oil or melted butter
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon. dried thyme

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C / 360°F.
  2. Sift the flour and baking powder together. Set aside.
  3. In a bowl, whisk the eggs well, and add the buttermilk. Beat well to combine. Add the carrot purée and beat in. Add the sifted flour mixture, salt and dried thyme and stir well to combine.
  4. Spoon into muffin molds or tins. Bake for 25 minutes for mini muffins, 30-35 minutes for larger muffins.
  5. Cool completely before packing into freezer-proof containers or bags to freeze. Muffins do go stale rather fast, so eat them within a day and freeze the extras.

Recipe: Carrot Purée

This may look like carrot baby-food, but taste like heaven. It's great on its own, spooned onto soup or pasta or rice, and so on. I saw a similar technique being demonstrated on the Masterchef Australia program (which is a terrific program by the way) where they used it on a plate of beautifully cooked baby vegetables.

Makes about 1 cup

Ingredients:

  • 3 medium carrots, peeled
  • 1 tablespoonp butter or olive oil
  • Pinch of salt (about 1/8th of a teaspoon)

Directions:

  1. Grate or shred the carrots finely.
  2. Put the carrots into a small pan with a tight fitting lid, with the butter or olive oil and salt.
  3. Turn the heat up to medium, and put the lid on. Let it steam-cook in the pan until the carrot is tender, about 5 minutes. Stir to let any excess moisture evaporate.
  4. Mash up with a fork, or pass through a sieve if you want a very smooth puree.

Using silicone mini-bento cups for baking

The flower-shaped muffins were baked in silicone muffin trays that I got from a French company called Patishop. They make the most wonderfully detailed molds for baking and making chocolates. I'm sure I'll talk more about them in future posts here or on Just Hungry.

I also tried baking a couple in some silicone bento cups, and that turnd out well too. This is a Barbapapa themed cup that I got in Japan:

barbapapacup.jpg

The Barbapapa face came out very nicely on the bottom of the muffin.

ramp_carrot_muffins2.jpg

If you do use bento cups for baking, make sure they are made of silicone or other heat-resistant material. Most bento cups are not heat-resistant, and may turn into a nasty mess if they are exposed to oven baking! That's why I prefer to stick to silicone for my bento cups, or use silicone cupcake/muffin cups as bento cups.

Ramps vs. ramsons

Ramps and ramsons are very similar in flavor, and you can use either one for the pesto here. Ramps have a stem that looks like a little green onion or baby leek while ramsons have a thinner stem. Both have wide, smooth leaves that look like lily-of-the-valley leaves, and both are called wild garlic, wild leek, spring onion and so on. In French they are called ail de bois or "garlic of the woods", and in German they're Bärlauch or "bear leek", apparently because the wild bears that used to roam the forests loved them. Bärlauch is very popular here in Switzerland.

(for search engine purposes)

By Makiko Itoh

Published: May 17, 2010

Type: muffins, baking, vegetarian