After a weekend of playing, dinning and exploring the lands of South Wales, it’s time to do some cooking and baking, especially when the sun is having a day-off. To start off for those of you who don’t normally make use of the kitchen, we’re going to make a can’t-fail recipe – The Muffin – a popular American recipe since the nineteenth-century. There’s no high-speed whisking involved, all you need in your kitchen is an oven, oven gloves, 12 muffin tins, a wooden spoon, a fork and all the right ingredients.

Banana and Walnut Muffin


200g plain flour
½ tsp baking powder
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
½ tsp salt
3 large bananas
75g butter
1 egg
150g caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
250g chopped pecans
2 tbsp Muscovado sugar


  1. Preheat your oven to 200°c.
  2. Grease 12 muffin tins and line them on a baking tray.
  3. Mash up the bananas, whisk the egg, and melt the butter.
  4. Sift the flour, baking powder and bicarbonate of soda into a bowl.
  5. Mix together the prepared bananas, egg, and butter, as well as vanilla extract, sugar and salt in a large bowl.
  6. Sift the dry ingredients again, this time, on to the wet mixture (this double sifting is essential as we won’t be mixing the dry and wet ingredients too vigorously in order to get a light, fluffy texture for a perfect muffin).
  7. Using a wooden spoon, gently combine the dry and wet ingredients til just mixed (remember, it’s ok if the mixture looks lumpy, the minimal mixing makes the lightest muffin but do make sure you don’t see bits of dry flour).
  8. Gently fold in the majority of the pecans (leave a small amount for sprinkling on top at the end).
  9. Spoon the mixture into the prepared muffin tins, sprinkle of the rest of the pecans and the muscovado sugar.
  10. Put the trayful of muffins on to the top shelf of the oven and immediately turn the temperature down to 170°c.
  11. Let the muffin sit and grow in the oven for 20-30 minutes until risen and golden. Test the muffins with a toothpick when you think they’re done (make sure the toothpick comes out clean).
  12. Rescue the muffins from the oven and let them rest in their tins for 2 minutes before removing the tins and cooling them down on a cooling rack.

Voilà! Enjoy your steamy muffin. N.B. any left over or staled muffin makes a good shake! Just whizz together two muffins, a shot of expresso, two teaspoonfuls of muscovado sugar and a glass of fresh milk. Pour that thin but heavenly shake into a pint glass and drink up! Add a big dollop of vanilla ice cream if you like it thick.

Arrabiata Wrap

To finish off our day, we’re going to make a healthy Arrabiata wrap. You think the muffin recipe is easy? This really take the cake!

  1. First of all, roast some veg, any veg. I’ve used onions, mixed peppers, tomatoes and mushrooms today but butternut squash and parsnip taste brilliant roasted too!
  2. So, preheat the oven to 180°c. Meanwhile wash and chop everything into strips (the tomatoes into quarters), place the peppers and onions on a baking tray lined with foil (shiny-side-up) stir in a good amount of extra virgin oil and season with sea salt and black pepper. Dunk them in the oven for 30 minutes or until soft and caramelised, add the tomatoes and cook for another 15 minutes. Remove from oven and drain and cool.
  3. Now, let’s prepare the arrabiata sauce. Chop an onion into small squares, crunch up 4-5 gloves of garlic and make them into tiny pieces too, pick 4-5 fresh birds-eye chilli and chop them small as well (add less chilli if you want a milder sauce).
  4. Heat up some olive oil over medium-high heat in a frying pan then add the onions and fry til soft and golden, stir in the garlic and chilli as well. Let them all sit on the fire for another 2 minutes then dunk in a tin of peeled whole tomatoes and squeeze in 4-5 tablespoonfuls of tomato purée. Season with a bit of salt and pepper and stir in a big tablespoon of muscovado sugar. Let it simmer for five minutes or until thickened.
  5. Once the veg and sauce are cooked and cooled, slab a piece of tortilla wrap on to a plate, spread a tablespoonful of the arrabiata sauce on to middle horizontal fourth of the wrap and place a handful of the roasted veg on to that strip too. Sprinkle a few pitted olives and feta cheese and roll up the wrap til half-way and fold in the two ends and finish rolling. Diagonally cut the wrap in half and serve with fresh salad.

Easy-peasy, right? You can reheat the left over sauce for penne arrabiata! P.S. Don’t forget to shave a few slices of parmesan on to your pasta dish!
As for tomorrow, we’re spring-cleaning for Chinese New Year – what joy! We will also lead you into the world of red and gold and bamboo shoots, telling you ancient stories of the forbidden city and some weird and wonderful traditions, myths and folklores. But for now, here is the vintage vocab of the day:

take the cake: serve as an extreme example; top anything
The first people to take the cake were winners of cakewalk competitions—a type of fancy walking competition popular among slaves on the antebellum plantations of the South. The couple with the most elegant walk was awarded a cake as a prize. Around the mid-nineteenth century, the expression take the cake was used as slang for winning generally, or being the best. On July 25, 1884 the Dakota Territory’s Lisbon Starreported, “Sheriff Moore takes the cake for the first wheat-harvesting in Ransom county.” By the beginning of the twentieth century, the phrase was normally used sarcastically to refer to the most egregious example of a thing. It had also traveled to England by this time. A character in the British writer Georgette Heyer’s 1938 novel A Blunt Instrument says with exasperation, “I’ve met some kill-joys in my time, but you fairly take the cake.”

source from Vintage Vocabulary