One of the best parts of living all over the world is being able to learn about and experience not only traditions and practices of other cultures and religions, but also to be introduced to the special foods that are an integral part of those traditions. As I sat down to write this post, I started counting up the many countries I’ve lived in and, out of the 13, five have them have been Muslim majority nations. So, while I am no expert in any way, I have come to know a little bit about their celebrations over the years.
This ninth month on the Islamic calendar is the month of Ramadan during which Muslims observe a complete fast from food or drink (and other carnal activities like smoking or sexual intercourse) from sunrise to sunset. The act of fasting is supposed to help the person focus on the spiritual, rather than the worldly things, and teach self-sacrifice and empathy for others. While traditional dishes vary from country to country, one thing seems standard. The fast is broken first by eating three dates and perhaps some water. There is often yogurt or a yogurt drink to follow. And then the feast, called iftar in this part of the world, truly begins and continues on into the night!
When I received the email with this week’s Muffin Monday recipe, I was delighted by the two main ingredients, pine nuts and honey because they are everywhere in the shops right now. Ramadan markets have sprung up all over with fruits and nuts and all manner of sweet treats. I knew these muffins would be perfect to send home with my lovely lady who helps me around the house a few days a week. She is the sweetest person and we adore her. Especially the Boxer dog, who greets her effusively every time she comes. Bless her, she loves him back! I decided to add chopped dates and ground pine nuts, and replace half of the milk with yogurt in the batter, in order to make these delightful muffins even more iftar friendly. If that’s a thing. I also added more sugar because folks here like things sweet.
These muffins turned out beautifully, with the most tender crumb inside and a lovely sticky muffin tops, even before the extra honey.
1 1/2 cups or 190g flour
1/2 cup or 60g pine nuts (plus 2 tablespoons for sprinkling before baking)
3/4 cup or 170g sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup or 120ml milk
Scant 1/2 cup or 110g yogurt
1/4 cup or 60g butter, melted
1/4 cup or 60ml honey plus extra for drizzling on baked muffins
4 1/2 oz or 125g unpitted dates (I used 11 dates, if you are counting.)
Preheat the oven to 350°F or 180°C. Grease or line your muffin tin with paper cups.
Grind your pine nuts in a food processor or blender. Either way, you may have to keep shaking the machine so the grinding nuts fall back towards the blades. They tend to blow up against the sides and out of the reach of the blades. Grind them as finely as you can without making pine nut butter.
|The ground pine nuts clump together but, not to worry! |
We will mash the clumps when we mix this with the flour and sugar.
Using a sharp knife, cut the seeds out of the dates. Chop them up into little pieces. They stick together (and don’t bother trying to make them not, because you can’t and it doesn’t matter) so it’s hard to see how small they are getting but just keep after it for a few minutes until you feel the pieces are as small or smaller than, say, raisins.
In a large bowl, combine the flour, ground pine nuts, sugar, baking powder and salt. Use a spoon to mash out all the soft pine nut lumps that are clinging together.
Add in the chopped dates to the liquid bowl. Use your whisk to break up the sticky dates into their individual pieces.
Spoon into your prepared muffin tin and sprinkle the top of the batter with the extra pine nuts.
Bake for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean.
Once they have cooled for a few minutes but are still slightly warm, drizzle lightly with some honey.
And to all my Muslim friends, Ramadan Kareem! Enjoy!
This recipe has been adapted from this post at Caffeiiina which came originally from this recipe at Taste of Home.
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