The idea for these savoury muffins came to me while picking the last of our allotment squashes, appealing to my penchant for making savoury twists on sweet standards. When roasted, squashes take on a gorgeous flavour, giving a subtle yet distinct flavour.
Rather than the dry muffins that are quite commonplace and can be a chore to eat, these muffins are lightly textured (not too dissimilar to twice-baked soufflés) with a nice crunch from the nuts, but they pack a real flavour punch. The flecks of cheese on top cook beautifully and add extra texture and a lovely flavour. A gluten-free version made with chestnut flour and gluten-free baking powder also works well.
To top or not to top
The topping (which works well as a filling instead) is not essential but its slightly sour note complements the richness of the muffin. I’ve not gone for elegance with these muffins and a casual dollop of the topping is effective enough. You can instead mix some of the roasted butternut squash with the cream cheese, a few crushed walnuts and a spritz of lemon juice for the topping.
Any size will do
These can be made in muffin or cake cases of any size. Miniature versions of these, made in petits fours cases (white ones rather than the flouncy ones that were all I had left for those in the picture below!), are lovely as light canapés, although strictly speaking they should be served de-cased!
Left-over squash ideas
As it is more sensible to roast a whole squash than part of a squash, the roasted squash that is not used in the recipe can be frozen to be used later.
A personal favourite use of mine is mixing the flesh with ricotta, roasted garlic, Parmesan, pine nuts, seasoning and a little finely chopped fresh sage for a stunning ravioli filling.
It also makes a wonderful dip when mixed with Greek yoghurt, garlic and pine nuts.
Butternut Squash Muffins (makes 12 large muffins)
For the muffins:
- 200g butternut squash, de-seeded and chopped into large chunks
- couple of tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- small handful fresh sage
- 100g self-raising flour sifted with 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 100g unsalted butter, softened
- 50g parmesan or mature cheddar, grated
- 3 eggs, lightly beaten
- 4 tablespoons milk
- 1 heaped tablespoon caramelised onion chutney
- 1 heaped tablespoon roasted pine nuts, coarsely chopped (optional)
- 40g walnuts, roughly chopped
- 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
- freshly milled black pepper
- approx. 80g goat’s cheese, roughly cubed, optional, or extra grated parmesan for sprinkling on top
For the topping (or filling):
- 100g good quality cream cheese
- 50g crème fraîche
- fresh chives, finely chopped
- caramelised onion chutney or chilli jam
- Preheat oven to 190C (fan) and line a muffin tin with muffin cases of whichever size is preferred.
- Mix the butternut squash with the sage leaves, oil and a light seasoning of fine sea salt and black pepper. Roast for about an hour until soft and allow to cool. Scoop the flesh from the squash, along with the cooked sage leaves, and lightly mash.
- Mix the squash and the remaining muffin ingredients – apart from the goat’s cheese – to form a thick batter. Beat for about a minute with a wooden spoon.
- Spoon the mixture into the muffin cases and add a couple of chunks of goats cheese to the muffins, pushing the goat’s cheese into mixture (if using) or else sprinkle a little parmesan over the top of each. Bake for 15-20 minutes until well risen and leave to cool on a wire rack.
- If using a filling/topping, mix together the cream cheese, crème fraîche, seasoning and chives. Place a small amount of onion chutney or chilli jam on top of the muffins, followed by a small spoonful of the cream cheese mixture on top. Alternatively, remove the muffins from their paper cases, slice in half horizontally and sandwich back together with the cream cheese mixture.