Ballet dancing is something that failed to really capture my imagination when I was a little girl. I attended lessons for a while, but my interest was fairly short-lived. It wasn’t until I was at university and living in a place where more cultural pursuits were on offer that I really fell in love with going to the ballet and since then it has become one of my favourite things to do.
It’s quite easy to dismiss the ballet as girly nonsense, but far from it – certainly the costumes are beautiful, but the dancers are incredibly physically strong and the moves they perform are just incredible to observe: there’s nothing wimpy about the level of skill involved. And then there’s the classical music, the impressive sets, and sometimes rather dark, fantastic stories – there really is something for everyone.
This weekend I’m going to my third ballet in Hong Kong, which, in a twist on the classic form, will be an interpretation of a play: A Streetcar Named Desire. Having recently seen the film and been absolutely blown away by the performances (not least Marlon Brando who was positively captivating), I’m keen to see how the drama translates into ballet. Seeing this play transformed into dance is a bit of a gamble, especially as it will be my poor, uncultured boyfriend’s first ever trip to the ballet and one of the classics might have been a safer bet. Hopefully it will pay off and he will see why I love it so much.
It’s not the only non-traditional approach I’m taking this week: I have eschewed the customary sweet muffins in favour of these scrumptious savoury ones. I’ve made them a few times, and they never disappoint. The best thing about them is that they are absolutely crammed with goodies – every mouthful yields some cheese, olive, basil or tomato. They make a tasty snack, or a good accompaniment to a bowl of soup.
Unfortunately there are no pictures this time to document the baking process, as my boyfriend was barking at me that he was weak with hunger and needed food, and I dread to think what he might have done had I delayed the cooking by taking pictures too. (He is forgiven though, because (a) he was extremely jet-lagged at the time, and (b) he returned from England with not the one Double Decker I requested, but eight. Eight! Goodbye, healthy eating plan!)
It’s a very simple recipe to follow, though it can take a little time to chop up the filling ingredients. You can experiment with the fillings too, I’ve substituted things depending on what leftovers I have. A bit of sweetcorn, a different kind of cheese or herb, it’s all good. Because of the cheese, they need to be kept in the fridge and can be heated up for a few minutes in the oven.
These little beauties come from Cranks Bible, a really great recipe book for vegetarians with a very tempting selection of baking recipes too.
Goat’s Cheese, Olive & Tomato Muffins
225g plain flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp garlic salt
50g goat’s cheese, chopped into little cubes
50g cheddar, chopped into little cubes
60g black olives, pitted and chopped
90g sundried tomatoes, chopped
1 tbsp basil, chopped
1 egg, beaten
1. Preheat the oven to 220C. Line a muffin tin with paper cases.
2. Sift the flour, baking powder, salt and pepper into a large bowl. Rub in the butter.
3. Add 2/3 of all the filling ingredients: both kinds of cheese, olives, tomatoes and basil. Stir well to combine everything equally.
4. Beat together the egg and milk, and pour into the dry ingredients. Beat in quickly with a fork until just incorporated – it should take no more than 30 seconds.
5. Spoon the mixture into the paper cases, filling them about 2/3 full. Then sprinkle the remaining ingredients on top (cheese, tomato, olives and basil).
6. Bake for 18-20 minutes, until risen and golden. Remove from the oven, allow to cool in the tins for 5 minutes then transfer to a wire rack to cool down a little more. Serve them while they’re still warm.