I was told of my grandmother’s passing yesterday evening while I was recipe-testing these muffins. She made it to the impressive age of 95, thanks to regular walks and a rather lack lustre diet of minimally-processed foods without excess sugars, salts and fats. Saying that she was “a bit” of a hypochondriac might be a severe understatement – she would regularly check herself in to the local hospital where doctors continuously pronounced her “healthy as an ox”, and she had a slight obsession with looking as young as possible for quite some time. I was told that she was a stunning young woman in her prime – quite an entrepreneur with multiple businesses and investments, and a proper lady who insisted on wearing heels even in the family home. She would come and visit Sydney occasionally when I was in my primary school years, but as she got older she was a little too frail to withstand the eight hour flight. Whenever I went back once every couple of years I was always dismayed to meet her and see those still-bright and sharp eyes in that amazingly un-lined face; thanks to her daily facial massage with expensive SK-II beauty products.
It became difficult to communicate with her during my last couple of visits. With her dementia slowly setting in, her grasp on Mandarin and English faded and she spoke only the local Taiwanese dialect (which I find impossible to pick up) and the occasional bit of Japanese (leftover from the Japanese takeover of Taiwan during World War II). I stayed at her place during my school holidays as a teenager and while my parents were out running errands, we would watch television together in silence. I would lounge on the leather sofa, while she perched on her straight-backed wooden chair in the corner of the room. With the language barrier in place, a two-way conversation was difficult but we remarkably bonded while watching multiple episodes of Mr Bean on HBO. You obviously don’t need to speak English to understand the universal charm of Mr Bean, and my grandmother would laugh until she had tears streaming down her cheeks.
Last night she died in that same chair, watching television while she waited for the housekeeper to finish cooking dinner. Amazingly, she simply stopped breathing – no pain whatsoever; a blessed passing that many of us can only dream of having. I was making the batter for these muffins after dinner time – using up the ricotta in the fridge – when I got a message from my dad that my grandmother had stopped breathing and that emergency services were on their way. I messaged my sister immediately to let her know, to receive a message half an hour later from her confirming grandmother’s passing. Rather in shock that it had all happened over the last half hour, I continued on with my muffins in a zombie-like state, topping them with strawberries and ricotta. When Night Owl called to see if I was alright, I responded that I was making muffins which got a bit of a chuckle.
As with all things, the best we can do is keep moving along and keep hoping for the best.I know – and all my family knows – that she is now in a much better place.
Easy Berry Ricotta Muffins (Makes 12)
You will need:
- 2 + 1/2 cups (375g) self-raising flour;
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon;
- 2/3 cup (150g) caster sugar;
- 2 eggs;
- 60g (three tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted;
- 1 cup (250ml) milk;
- 1 cup full-fat ricotta;
- 250g punnet strawberries or mixed berries (I used up some fresh strawberries and frozen blueberries);
- Brown sugar, to sprinkle.
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celcius and line a 12-hole muffin pan with muffin cases.
Sift the flour and cinnamon into a large bowl before adding the caster sugar. Place the eggs, butter and milk into a jug and whisk to combine. Add the liquid ingredients to the dry and stir until just combined. Stir three-quarters of the ricotta and berries into the mixture. Place heaped tablespoons into each muffin case.
Top each muffin with pieces of the remaining berries and dollops of the remaining ricotta. Sprinkle the top of each with a little brown sugar. Bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown.
The generous amount of beautiful ricotta makes these muffins nice and moist (sorry) and perfect for the work/school lunchbox. They will keep for a few days in a sealed container at room temperature, but for any longer they are best wrapped tightly in cling film and frozen – zap them in the microwave for 15 to 20 seconds for steaming deliciousness!