With all the wonderful weather we have been enjoying recently here in Majorca, the blue skies, the wall to wall sunshine, and the springtime temperatures, I have been feeling quite guilty when corresponding on-line with family and friends in the UK.
It’s hard to comprehend that just over two hours away from Majorca, the weather back home can be so tragically different. Violent storms, snow and unforgiving rainfall have devastated many parts of the country, flooding houses, blocking roads and causing untold damage to both homes and businesses. A tragic start to a new year for many, with seemingly no let up!
I have felt almost embarrassed this past week, telling friends back home how delightfully warm and sunny it is currently here on the island. How the almond blossom is slowly saturating the trees, and how a picnic on the beach is now a serious option!
Not a day goes by when we don’t tell ourselves how lucky we are to be living here on this beautiful island. Of course, everywhere on earth has its ups and downs. But, even with all its negatives and minor idiosyncrasies ( no matter how annoying), Majorca is without doubt, a proverbial paradise compared to some other locations ‘off shore’, with Old Blighty sadly heading the list.
When we first relocated to the island over sixteen years ago, the only concerns we had came from friends, who said things like – “Can you buy beans? What about bacon? And are there decent sausages in Spain?” None of those concerns even crossed our minds. Naturally, over the years, there have been things that I sometimes think about or miss, yet nothing I can’t live without or adapt by using an alternative! Besides, surely half the fun of living abroad in a different country is embracing a different culture and experimenting with the local produce.
And yes! You can buy beans in all shapes and sizes along with a half decent version of English bacon found in Lidl or Aldi. As for sausages! Well, the jury is still out on that one, unless you drive south to an English supermarket or seek out the famed British master butcher in Santa Ponsa!
One of the few things I do miss about the UK, particularly when I was living in West Porlock, a coastal hamlet within Exmoor National Park, are the cream teas, enjoyed on sunny days in picturesque tea gardens. Not necessarily scones with lashings of jam and clotted cream, although they were easily a firm favourite, but generally the selection of English bakes on offer which you simply don’t get here in Majorca. To be realistic and honest yet harsh, the patisserie here is somewhat basic, with not much range outside of ensaimadas, chocolate covered donuts and cream filled puff pastries which do very little to inspire, and to be quite frank are a bit of a lazy offering. Not quite the English tea-shoppe experience of Old Blighty fame which I sometimes crave!
I used to bake quite a lot in the UK and still enjoy the challenge here in Majorca, even though the flour is naturally quite different. God bless Homepride!
Baking muffins used to be my particular passion with all their different and varied possibilities – from sweet to savoury. You can easily buy pre-baked muffins here, but generally the ‘magdalena’ is the preferred and more popular choice amongst the locals. In fact, the hardest thing about making muffins here in Majorca is finding the paper muffin cases to form your fabulous creations. Magdalena cases are far too small, and continually buying the ‘deli style’ tulip cases on-line can prove very expensive over time.
We eat muffins most days for breakfast as they freeze so well, and are a delicious start to the day. They are also relatively healthy (as opposed to a bacon sarnie ), very light and slip down a treat with a nice cup of tea. I also find that most cake mixtures work equally well when presented as a perfectly portioned muffin. They are jewel- like nuggets of patisserie pleasure which take only minutes to defrost when friends pop in for a cuppa! As there are only the two of us at home, if I bake a cake it is still hanging around five days later and the last slice is never going to be as fresh as the first. By freezing your muffin batch you always have fresh cake on hand – but defrost naturally, NEVER in the microwave as it changes the muffin texture.
Over the years I have developed the perfect blueberry muffin recipe which never fails. It doesn’t need fancy buttermilk or self raising flour and uses everything you can source locally here in Majorca, including home made muffin cases fashioned from greaseproof paper. The only thing you really need are conventional USA measuring cups which make the bake and measuring ingredients so much easier. No fiddling and fussing with scales.
But first the muffin cases. If you can’t source any then you need to find an object to utilise as a ‘moulding form’ which fits perfectly into the cup of your bakeware muffin pan. I found a miniature terracotta flowerpot which has just the right bevel to match the bakeware cup perfectly. You could try yoghurt cartons or something similar! Cut squares of greaseproof paper, approx 15 x 15 cms and lay on top of your upturned moulding form. Keep paper central while making folds by smoothing down and around your mould. Try and keep all the folds going the same way, then push the paper and mould into your muffin pan cup. Press down, give it a little twist and ‘voila!’- a paper muffin cup.
Here is the recipe for my easy, never-fail blueberry Majorcan muffins:
Sieve 1½ cups plain flour (I always use the one in the red packet for ‘reposteria’) with 2 level teaspoons baking powder and ¾ cup white sugar into a large mixing bowl. Crack one egg into the one cup measure, add 1/3rd cup of vegetable oil and whisk, then top up to full cup measure with milk. Mix this gently into the flour mixture. Then fold in 1 cup of fresh blueberries with grated rind of 1 orange and a dash of vanilla extract. Don’t overmix or beat – just stir nicely. Rest in fridge while you make your muffin cases.
Set oven to 175 degrees C fan (my preference) or 200 degrees C conventional. Using an ice cream scoop, portion batter into twelve muffin cases, sprinkle generously with sugar, and bake for 15 minutes testing with a cocktail stick when risen and golden. The stick should come out clean when baked to perfection. You can use magdalena paper cases at a push, but bear in mind they will be smaller (and will make more) and take less baking time. Having said that – the idea of a muffin is a bigger, more substantial bite, so try your hand at making the paper cases yourself! Easy Peasy! And your Majorcan Muffins will never be lovelier.
My second favourite bake is a standard lemon drizzle cake batter, portioned and baked as a muffin (cook for about 15 mins) complete with lemon sugar drizzle. Also superdooper delish!