It’s entirely my own fault, but I’m feeling pretty delicate today. If I’m not going to leave the house and do something useful, I generally turn to baking as a way to get the sense of achievement that normal people get from doing a bit of gardening (or whatever it is they do on a Sunday). I’d bought some buttermilk earlier this week, intending to make some of Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s savoury muffins from last week’s Guardian Weekend magazine, and today seemed as good a day as any. (You can consult Hugh’s article and recipes here.)

I decided to make a variation on the red onion, cheddar, and bacon muffins, leaving out the bacon, replacing the cheddar with cubed feta, and adding a handful of toasted pine nuts. I also replaced half of the specified 250g wholemeal self-raising flour with its white equivalent, wanting to avoid that worthy heaviness at all costs. It wasn’t a risk worth taking today.

Apart from a moment when I absent-mindedly licked a spoonful of the mixture and was shocked to discover that it’s just not the same when it’s not cake batter, I didn’t encounter any problems. The muffins are pretty tasty too, especially warm from the oven. My only issue with them is that once cooked and removed from their paper cases, a thick layer of muffin remains stubbornly stuck to the paper. Perhaps more melted butter in the mixture might solve this – further experiments in muffin-making will have to be conducted.

And in a continuing birthday theme, the joint celebration took place at the Lake Isle in Uppingham. It’s a bit of a favourite local haunt of my parents’ – not only is the food generally refined and tasty, but the kitchen is wonderfully obliging, and happy to rustle up numerous alternatives for those of a fussy (well, vegetarian) persuasion.

On this occasion, with four vegetarians out of our party of five, one of whom is allergic to nuts, the chef had concocted an additional starter and three extra meat-free main course options in advance. You can’t really argue with service like that. Three of us went for the Thai green vegetable curry with noodles, topped with crushed cashews, and two opted for sweet potato and goat’s cheese croquettes with roasted mango.

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The curry was exactly what I needed in my (slightly) hungover and sleep-deprived state, with a perfectly spiced, slightly sweet and well-reduced sauce; the cashew nuts were the perfect addition. The croquettes, too, were tasty and beautifully formed, although the plate could probably have done with a little more of the tomato salad to balance the smooth sweetness of the filling.*

For dessert, my sister and I shared a green tea cheesecake, which came with lime yoghurt sorbet and fresh mango and was no less delicious for resembling guacamole and seemingly having a chunk missing from the slice.

Mmm, that sorbet…

Mmm, that sorbet…

The peach and almond tart with blueberry ice-cream was slightly disappointing, consisting of a disk of puff pastry topped with what may well have been canned peaches, with not much sign of the promised almonds; a tasty summer pudding with clotted cream ice-cream did what it said on the tin.P8300423

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All washed down with a bottle of pinot grigio between three of us, this was altogether a lovely Sunday lunch. Off we waddled to sleep it off (some of us as soon as we made it to the car).

*Having said that, my sister has just reminded me that we were served with platters of steamed beans, carrots and broccoli, if memory serves, and roast potatoes, which helped with the cheese/vegetable balance for her main course. A slightly strange choice to accompany a curry, you might think, but my dad insists that the potatoes were perfect with the residual curry sauce on his plate. Well, it was his birthday…