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I enjoy being able to share what I know and love. Like when I was teaching English as a Second Language to adult migrants. As a native English speaker, you’re essentially passing on what you know and love about your own language (whilst trying to explain it!). The students I taught had been through so much hardship and were thrilled just to learn a few basics; everyday language that enabled them to negotiate life in a new country. It was my privilege to share some of my knowledge with them.

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The same applies to sharing my love and knowledge of baking and all things cake. I’m no expert, but I couldn’t help getting a wee bit excited when a friend began asking me questions about baking; “Ali, what’s the difference between bicarb and baking soda…?” By her own admission, ‘a complete novice’, R wanted to know what equipment was needed, and what sort of thing would be best for a beginner baker to make. It didn’t take long to decide that brownies and muffins were the place to start.

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A couple of weeks later we were ready, and with the kids playing at our feet, we began by making her husband’s favourite: Double Chocolate Raspberry Brownies… an excellent choice! Next up was Choc Chip Banana Muffins, which were almost healthy enough to share with young E (13 months). Then, because she is motivated to cook healthy food for her family, R asked if I had any savoury muffins in my repertoire. I was ashamed to admit I did not… which is really how these muffins were born!

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Admittedly, there is no shortage of muffin recipes on the web, but sometimes it pays to know someone who has tested them out first. For these, I chose polenta as a base because it provides a lovely crunchiness to the texture, and when baking gluten-free, we’re already halfway there! Polenta always seems to taste better with sugar, so these are not sugar-free. Polenta, sugar, plus some ham, corn and chives, rounds out the flavours for a great-tasting, savoury muffin that is gluten and dairy-free.

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Ham, Corn and Polenta Muffins {gluten-free + dairy-free}

Makes 12 regular-sized muffins

Ingredients
½ cup polenta
1 tablespoon caster sugar (optional)
1 ¼ cups gluten-free plain (all-purpose) flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
1/3 cup vegetable oil (olive oil or coconut oil is fine)
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon cider vinegar
1 x 310g tin (approx 1 cup) creamed corn
1 x 125g tin (approx ½ cup) corn kernels, drained
1 to 2 tablespoons finely chopped garlic chives
100g (4 oz) shaved ham, chopped
Sweet paprika, for topping (optional)

Method
Preheat the oven to 190 degrees C (375F). Grease 12 regular (½ cup) non-stick muffin holes. (Or if yours are old and tend to stick like mine, then please, please line with muffin papers or baking paper! I cut 12 squares of non-stick baking paper, 15cm x 15cm each and used them to line the ungreased muffin holes).

Sift the polenta, sugar, flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt together into a large mixing bowl. Place the oil, eggs and creamed corn in a separate bowl, whisk together well and pour into the dry ingredients.

Add the corn kernels, garlic chives and ham, and stir together with a metal spoon until just combined. Do not overmix. The mixture should still be lumpy.

Spoon the mixture into prepared muffin tins, filling ¾ full. Sprinkle with paprika and bake for 20 minutes until risen and golden brown. Leave in the tin to cool for 5 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight container.

Notes
Polenta is available at most supermarkets and health-food shops.

Adapted from Family Circle’s ‘Baking – a commonsense guide’ with some help from The Smitten Kitchen

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