The Sacrifice (and raspberry ripple muffins)

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I’ve just spent a fascinating five minutes watching another giant hornet (or it might be the same one – brown head, brown wings, yellow striped jumper, six engines…) trying to take off with a cat biscuit that one of our mob left in their dish outside on the terrace. Our cat biscuits are about the size of a British penny, so that gives you an idea just how big these pesky beasts are. The locals call them donkey bees – not sure why that is – maybe because of their penchant for carrying things around. Anyway, he was having trouble getting enough lift, so he solved this by nibbling all around the edges of the biscuit to make it a bit smaller – hey presto, we have lift off. He’s probably got a very fully tummy though, so I’m not sure whether he’ll make it safely to his destination with his prize.

Today is the first day of Kurban bayramı, also known as Eid al-Adha or the Feast of the Sacrifice. You can probably tell from the name that it is not necessarily something with which I like to get closely involved. In fact, I shall be staying firmly within the boundaries of our house and I won’t be taking too much interest in what is going on in our neighbours’ gardens, lest I come face to face with a recently deceased goat or sheep. When I called in at the Friday market in Kaş to pick up goodies from the fabulous cheese stall, the poor creatures were munching happily away at their feed, with no idea that their days were severely numbered. I do eat meat, and I do know it comes from animals, but I don’t necessarily feel their slaughter is something which I need to celebrate.

Of course, we are having a virtual re-enactment of July’s Şeker bayramı in our town. People from the big cities started arriving in their thousands on Friday, followed by many more on Saturday and Sunday. There isn’t a hotel room to be had anywhere in Kaş and when we passed through yesterday, the town centre looked like a giant car park. We are fast approaching the end of the season, we’ve had temperatures of 40-plus degrees for more than two months – oddly enough, tempers are becoming frayed and tolerance is waning. I think staying at home is definitely the best option this week.

We are on countdown to our trip to New Zealand and Tonga. We leave on Saturday and not one item has yet made it into my very small suitcase. Robin’s son and daughter-in-law live on a steep hillside on the coast, west of Auckland, and there are 102 steps up to the road from their house, so I am trying to decide whether I can manage with just a swimsuit and a toothbrush! Or perhaps I could coerce one of the boys to lug my luggage – I could plead a hurty arm or something…

I am also keeping the suitcases out of sight, as Marmalade will go into an instant decline if she catches sight of them, even though her lovely Aunty Eliza is coming to stay while we are away. Aunty Eliza gives them all lots of treats and makes a big fuss of them, so they will be very spoiled when we get home. Here’s Marmalade, supervising my ironing activities yesterday, while perched atop of a pile of cushions I’d left on the spare bed – brings to mind that fairytale, ‘The Princess and the Pea’…

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Yesterday, I went for my pre-trip haircut with my friend Linda, so muffins had to be baked for our tea-break. Our friend John – hairdresser extraordinaire – is very fond of a Bakewell tart, but I really couldn’t be fagged making pastry on such a hot day, so I decided to compromise by incorporating ground almonds and raspberries into my usual muffin mix. We don’t get fresh raspberries in Turkey, but we do have really excellent frozen berries. I like to use them direct from the freezer, as I find they are less likely to sink to the bottom. For some reason (probably the almonds), the muffin batter was a little firmer than usual, so I had a problem stirring them in – this actually had a happy ending, as I finished up with a rather yummy raspberry ripple effect.

The muffins freeze really well and only take around an hour to defrost, so it’s worth making double the quantity and saving some for another day.

Here’s the recipe:

Raspberry ripple muffins

Makes 12

You will need a 12-hole muffin tin and paper muffin liners

200g self-raising flour
100g ground almonds (Turkish bakers, you can substitute semolina and add a little extra natural almond extract)
150g brown sugar (I used Demerara)
150g frozen raspberries plus 12 extra for topping
100ml milk
80ml plain yoghurt
½ teaspoon natural almond extract
1 egg
125ml vegetable oil (use sunflower or canola, NOT olive oil)
A handful of flaked almonds
Sugar for sprinkling

Pre-heat the oven to 200C.

Put the flour, ground almonds (or semolina) and brown sugar into a large mixing bowl and give everything a good stir until it is combined.

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Pour the milk into a measuring jug and add the yoghurt, then the vegetable oil. Beat in the egg and almond extract.

Make a well in the middle of the dried ingredients and pour in the milk, oil and egg mixture. Stir with a wooden spoon or table knife until just combined. Add the raspberries and stir until well distributed. Try not to over-mix or your muffins will be tough.

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Divide the batter between the muffin cups (a spring-action ice cream scoop is handy here). Top each muffin with a raspberry and a few flaked almonds, then sprinkle generously with sugar.

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Bake for around 25 minutes until well risen, golden brown and firm to the touch.

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