Five-a-Day Fruit Muffins
In the early stages of my recovery, I found maintaining my previous fruit and vegetable intake completely impossible. Compliance to a meal plan which contained more carb than carrot (a ratio positively unheard of in recent months) made the thought of adding any leafy greens (no matter how juicy or yearned for) alongside the compulsory carbohydrate and protein utterly ludicrous. As far as I was concerned my plate was full enough!
So, the ‘eat the rainbow’ philosophy I had prided myself on was gone and its replacements were overwhelmingly beige, (to my mind) processed and claggy. Everything was too flabby and artificially sweet; eventually, I was crying out for something succulent and fresh.
I craved the crunch of an apple and missed biting into a tomato and feeling the explosion of its seeded juice against my lips. The only time I felt able to have fruit was in the form of my prescribed glass of pineapple juice at breakfast. However, even that brought me little joy; the fresh, summery tang of pineapple that I longed for was dense, syrupy and from a carton.
As a foodie, let alone one rocking an eating disorder, I thought that my food situation was rather dire and pitiful. I grieved for the ‘variety’ of food I had eaten before my diagnosis. Yet somehow, at that stage, I still failed to realise something that has become increasingly clear as my recovery progresses: my ‘extensive range’ of food intake, which I was proud of and mourned the loss of, had been distinctly lacking with regard to the nutritional staples of balanced diet. I might have been eating a ‘rainbow’ of fruit and veg but where was my dairy, carbohydrate, fat and protein intake? Where was my evidential portion of bread, potatoes, yogurt, biscuits, noodles, pasta, baked beans, red meat, cheese, jam and cake? Where were the foods that would provide the vital amino acids and minerals which are conducive to life? Moreover, when had I last eaten the “broad” array of food I claimed I enjoyed? When my disorder had its strongest hold on me, my ‘varied diet’ in fact consisted of a small range of safe foods which I ate increasingly reduced portions of.
My reintroduction to some of these forgotten foods began with none other than a batch of banana and blueberry muffins (I did say that I had missed my fruit!) which I made in the first week of my day patient programme. The recipe itself was donkeys’ years old; before any weighing took place, I had to convert the quantities from ounces into grams! Whilst many aspects of food preparation and consumption were daunting for me, I had never lost my love of baking and could still experience the catharsis of following a recipe and standing over a mixing bowl. My anxiety had always failed to quash the comfort I found in feeling flour between my fingertips and I still divined immense satisfaction from the sight of golden threads of runny honey drizzling from a spoon to anoint a steaming bowl of porridge or to sweeten a sticky batch of golden flapjacks. My excitement grew in unison with the sight of baking buns rising as if I also contained a raising agent. I admit, I wanted to surprise the staff at the Disorder Eating Service with my baking knowledge and impress them with my culinary confidence; I did succeed in leaving them stunned when I asked to lick the spoon.
However, my bluff was called the minute the domed, golden sponge was placed in front of me. I had made my cake and now had come the time to eat it. I felt less nonchalant about this. But do you know what? It was lovely. Still soft and warm from the oven, the blueberries stained the sponge with their colourful juice. The cooked fruit provided small pockets of sharpness which were the perfect foil for the caramelised banana flavour. In that moment, no bravado or false pretence was needed. The muffins were delicious which made them so much more manageable and the icing on the cake was the fact that I could add bananas and blueberries to that day’s fruit count. The presence of blueberries and banana in the sponge made the whole experience more pleasurable and didn’t evoke a heinous tidal wave of angst or guilt which would have crippled me in the past. I was so enamoured by the recipe that I took a copy home to be recreated on a later date. Over time, I have put my own twist on the original ingredients and method, upping the berry content to help me get my fruity fix! My thinking was, if all it took was the addition of a little fruit to curb the flow of destructive thoughts that might previously have prevented me from eating and enjoying a forbidden muffin, then why not go the whole hog and fit my five a day in there?!
Below is my adapted recipe of the original banana muffins I enjoyed at the clinic but with the addition of some extra berries and coconut. I think these really lift the flavour of the sponge and just add to the fruity fun!
- 225g self-raising flour
- 100g butter, softened and cubed
- 100g soft brown sugar
- 2 eggs, beaten
- 2 tbsp honey
- 3 over-ripe bananas, mashed
- 150g mixed berries, raspberries, blueberries and blackberries
- 60g desiccated coconut
- Preheat your oven to Gas Mark 4 and line a deep muffin tray with 12 muffin cases.
- Sift the flour into a large bowl and add the cubed butter. Using your fingertips, rub the butter into the flour until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Add the brown sugar and desiccated coconut and mix well.
- Add the eggs, honey and mashed bananas and mix until combined.
- Chop the blackberries and raspberries so they are of a similar size to the blueberries. Add to the bowl and fold in to distribute them evenly through the muffin batter. Do so gently to prevent the fruit from breaking up further.
- With a spoon, dollop the mixture equally across the twelve paper cases so that they are 2/3 full and look more or less even. Bake on the middle shelf of the oven for 25-30 minutes or until well risen, golden and a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean. I would also recommend turning the tray round at the 15 minute midway point so that all the muffins develop the same warm, golden colour.
- When you’re happy with the bake, leave your muffins to cool in their tray for ten minutes. Once they’ve cooled slightly, transfer the muffins to a wire rack to cool completely for another five minutes. Or, if you are like me and cannot wait, have one right there and then!
These muffins are best served fresh and due to the high fruit content, they spoil at faster rate. However, they can be stored in an air-tight container for a few days and keeping them in the fridge may help prolong their little fruit lives! If you do refrigerate these babies, then I’d recommend giving them a quick 30 second spell in the microwave before you eat one to restore them to light, fruity fluffiness!