Sunday 13 March 2011

Artichoke muffins for the zoo

It is a long weekend here so we decided to go to the zoo today. I thought it would be nice to take along some savoury muffins to avoid the inevitable disappointment at the vegetarian food, the queues and the prices. I bought the ingredients yesterday and found a recipe to fit them last night and made them this morning just before we left. They were so warm when we packed our bag that I wrapped them in a teatowel so they didn't sweat.

The muffins were inspired by Sweet Artichoke's blog event Healing Foods: Artichokes (coordinated by Siri). She mentioned that even though she was artichoke by name, she had not cooked much with artichokes on her blog. Which made me curious. When I checked my blog, it seemed I haven't cooked much with artichokes either. The event seemed like a good chance to make amends. And I wanted to make muffins. Sweet Artichoke makes such gorgeous savoury cupcakes that I am sure she will appreciate these.

I appreciate buying the ingredients from a local deli where a nice man told me that the artichokes in brine were softer than the ones they were selling in an olive oil marinade. I wanted them to melt into the muffin. And they did. The muffins are also packed with sun-dried tomato, parmesan cheeese, parsley and facon.

I was rushing so much to get us organised to go out that by the time the muffins came out of the oven, I remembered I hadn't had breakfast. A muffin did me very nicely, thank you! Once I thought we were all packed, E pointed out that I had a huge hole at the back of my skirt. I got out a needle and thread, put on my new reading glasses and sewed up the skirt. Then Sylvia and I went ahead for the train and E missed it so he had to get the next one and meet us at the zoo.

We had a lovely time at the zoo. I love the giraffes and seals, which I have shared with you before. It was so hot that seeing the graceful seals gliding through the water made me yearn to be in there with them. E loved the otters who were amazingly playful today. It was almost as if they were performing for us. I think Sylvia might have loved the orangutans most because it was the animal that was hardest to part her from. One big old orangutan sat right in front of her and then took his blanket and went to lie down in the corner.

We walked the Trail of the Elephants. This is a relatively new "experience". I took a photo of the above old cage to compare the old zoo with the new. This is a cage from the 1890s when there was no shame in curiosity. People caged and watched the animals, with (apparently) not much thought for what sort of life they lived.

Today the zoo experience is different. We are made to forget that the animals are held in captivity. In fact it almost feels as though the zoo visitors are the ones in cages looking out at the animals in their lush surroundings.

What I find interesting about the Trail of the Elephants is that it is so much more than animals. Signs and jungle architecture recreate the milieu of the Asian elephant and make us feel like a tourist in their world. According to the zoo website, the trail "incorporates a human element for the first time". Indeed, it did give some inkling of what it might be like to share a habitat with these animals.

There are currently two baby elephants in the zoo. For some this might bring to mind the Baby Elephant Walk. For me, it brings to mind the great poster that parents of childhood friends had up in their house: Getting anything done around here is like elephants mating: it is done at a high level with a lot of fuss and takes a long time to get any results. Well, they were very cute.

The muffins were an excellent snack to have on hand. We stopped and got a seat in the shade. Sylvia seemed to like them but had to be reminded to eat them because there was so much to watch. We also had fruit balls and grapes. E refused to buy any food because he was horrified at the entrance price ($24). I succumbed to the heat and bought an icy pole as we left to catch our train. We got home just in time to bring the washing in as it started to rain. Not a bad effort!

Previously on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
This time last year: MLLA Soba salad and orange tempeh
This time three years ago: MM Vegetable nut crumble

Artichoke, Sun Dried Tomato and Cheese Muffins
adapted from Baking Obsession
makes 12 regular muffins

  • 1 cup plain wholemeal flour
  • 1/2 cup plain white flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt (I think I will use less next time)
  • 1/2 tsp freshly coarsely ground black pepper (I couldn't find my pepper and used a dash of chilli powder)
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup fried facon (optional)
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 3 eggs
  • 3 artichoke hearts (about 1/2 cup) diced (mine were canned in brine)
  • ¼ cup chopped sun-dried tomatoes, packed in olive oil
  • ¼ cup finely chopped fresh parsley
Preheat the oven to 200 C (400 F). Line 12 hole muffin pan with muffin papers.

In a largish bowl, stir together the flours, baking powder, salt, and pepper. Stir in parmesan and facon. Place milk, oil and eggs in a small bowl and whisk lightly with a fork. Stir in artichokes, sundried tomatoes and parsley. Pour wet ingredients into dry ingredients and mix until just combined.

Spoon batter into prepared muffin papers. Bake for about 30 minutes or until golden brown and a skewer inserted in the middle comes out cleanly. Serve warm or cool.

On the Stereo:
Twighlight Rituals: TAC


  1. E should count himself lucky, as adult tickets are $34 at the National Zoo and Aquarium in Canberra!! I'm so glad you decided to go to the zoo after all, and I love the muffins, but then again artichokes have always been a favourite of mine :)

  2. We did'nt like the price of the zoo when we went so we joined friends of the zoo. It was just under $200 for the year and gives you unlimited free entry to melbourne, weribee and healsville zoos. We could also use the pass in Perth and Sydney and also Adelaide. Considering it cost us $60 to get in as a family we only needed to visit three times to get our money's worth but ended visiting dozens of times it was well worth it.

    Also those muffins looks so nice we have only just discovered how nice artichoke are so I think I will give these a go.

  3. The prices at the zoo are always INSANE. And the food is constantly bad...even if you're not a vegetarian. I also always bring my own food.

    These savory muffins sound so delicious! I haven't cooked much with artichokes either...such a shame since I adore them!

  4. Oh My! That sounds like a perfect day! The baby elephants are sooo cute:-) Your artichoke muffins look delicious! I really like the colourful touch given by the sundried tomatoes. Thanks for sending such a yummy recipe!

  5. I love the zoo and we used to have a yearly subscription to it! I loved the playful but smelly otters and the chilled out gorillas :)

  6. Thanks Hannah - $34 sounds extravagant - though our zoo and aquarium are separate so together they probably cost more but there is only so much you can see in one visit!

    Thanks sugar elephant - good luck with the muffins - I am considering a zoo membership once I have time to look into it - glad to hear it worked for you

    Thanks joanne - interesting how artichokes get forgotten - and I think bringing your own food to the zoo is sensible - who wants to queue for lunch anyway when there is so much to see

    Thanks Vanessa - I'd forgotten about the baby elephants so they were a great surprise - look forward to more artichoke recipes in the round up

    Thanks Lorraine - I can't remember seeing the otters before but they were so funny with all their antics

  7. Wow, do those muffins sound fabulous! I love savory muffins as they can double for rolls or bread, but I tend not to make them much. Interesting about the changes to the zoo and the cages. I hadn't thought of it that way before, but yes, it does appear as if the humans are the ones in cages (though of course we know they're not). The baby elephants are beautiful!

  8. A few years ago, I visited the National Zoo in Washington DC zoo and it is free. I went there to see the pandas: I figured I'd never seen them in their habitat. I love otters too, and seals. I should find my photos of them from the kayak. I love the idea of savory muffins and I really like the photo.

  9. I've never had artichoke nor parsley in a muffin! I looove the sound of it though. I will try and make these soon. :)


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