Thursday, February 26, 2015

Cheesy Potato & Pancetta Muffins

I'm not really sure there are adequate words to describe these delightful muffins… They're insanely delicious - kind of like a fully loaded baked potato and a muffin had a baby! I find these Cheesy Potato & Pancetta Muffins to be the ultimate comfort food. I've made these for lunch in the past and continued to snack on them all day with no need to make an additional dinner in the evening. They're just as good cold as they are warm, so I also love the idea of serving these muffins at a party as a bit of carb-loaded soakage for indulgent guests. Though there's not an abundance of eggs in this recipe, the potatoes, pancetta & cheese give the muffins a quiche-like quality, which makes them perfect for brunch.

Feel free to take a few liberties here with ingredients. If you'd rather onions, chives or shallots instead of garlic, go for  it. I personally love the way the garlic offsets the cheese & pancetta, but shallots would work beautifully too. If you want them a bit more salty, try adding a dribble of Worcestershire sauce. Try a different type of cheese or even substitute crumbled bacon or ham for the pancetta. If you're worried about serving vegetarians, just take the pancetta out altogether. The choice is yours and the options are plentiful. This is the perfect use for leftover mashed potatoes, but feel free to start by making fresh mash the way you normally do before you start the muffins. Either way works just fine. For my mash, I usually just peel the potatoes and cut them into cubes before boiling until soft. Then I strain the potatoes, add about a tablespoon or two of butter, a generous pinch or two of sea salt flakes, several grinds of fresh black pepper and some skim milk before mashing with a hand-held potato masher. Easy peasy!

When you're baking these, I highly recommend using paper cupcake cups as the muffins are quite gooey, especially when warm. Also, don't worry if they deflate a little after cooling - this is normal.

2 tablespoons regular olive oil
150g chopped pancetta
3 garlic cloves, minced
350g plain flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt flakes
2 cups packed mashed potatoes
2 eggs
350ml skim milk (or whatever milk you prefer)
125ml sour cream
1 cup finely shredded mild cheddar cheese, plus more for sprinkling
Fresh nutmeg
Fresh black pepper

1. Start by pre-heating the oven to 200°C and lining a muffin pan with cupcake cases. You'll need between 18 & 24, so if you have two muffin pans, it's convenient to do both trays at the same time.

2. Cook the pancetta in the olive oil on medium-low heat until crispy and bronze. Remove with a slotted spoon to a paper towel lined plate and set aside to drain.

3. Reduce the heat and in the same oil & pan, cook the garlic until soft being careful not to burn. When cooked, remove from heat and set aside to cool in the pan.

4. In a medium-sized mixing bowl, sift the flour, baking powder and salt. If you don't have a sifter, stir it with a wire whisk or fork. Set aside.

5. In a large mixing bowl, add the mashed potatoes, eggs, milk, garlic, sour cream, pancetta, 1 cup of cheddar cheese and several grindings of fresh black pepper with a wire whisk until well combined.

6. Now, I know this step is contrary to most muffin recipes, but trust me - it works. Pour the dry mixture all at once into the wet mixture. Stir to combine with a rubber spatula or wooden spoon until lumpy. Don't over-stir - muffin batters should always be lumpy.

7. Spoon the mixture into the case lined muffin tin, filling each section right to the top. Sprinkle each muffin generously with the remaining finely shredded cheddar cheese. Finally, grate fresh nutmeg over the top of each muffin and bake in the oven at 200°C for 20 minutes. Serve warm or cold, but if serving piping hot, you may want to use a fork.

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