Long road trips usually mean bad food. More often than not your choice is between greasy burgers at fast food restaurants, dehydrated pies at rugged petrol stations, or if you’re lucky, overpriced and under-filled panini at the occasional cafe. Nothing ever tastes good. I was determined to avoid such calorific mediocrity during our 10-hour drive to the Hunter Valley for Christmas, so I made a batch of Heidi Swanson’s delicious millet muffins.
My perfect road trip fare is both nutritious and delicious, filling but not heavy, able to be eaten without utensils, and creates no mess. These muffins tick all my fussy boxes. Millet is birdseed, it’s true, but it is a tasty and highly nutritious grain for humans too. In this recipe the millet retains its crunch, providing a pleasing textual accent to every mouthful. The only sweetener used is honey, which makes the muffins sweet in a delicate, non-sugary way. They are tangy with yoghurt and lemon and, despite the use of 100% wholemeal flour, moist and surprisingly light. We still stopped for coffee along the way and a pub lunch at Yamba, but these muffins and some crunchy apples kept us going for the whole trip.
For all these reasons, I made millet muffins again for the road trip to celebrate our 17th (17!!) wedding anniversary, even though the two hour drive to Eumundi Markets barely qualified as a road trip. We got up early in the morning, downed muffins smeared with plum jam, packed a few more to see us through the day, and hit the road by 7am.
The last time I was at Eumundi Markets was about 15 years ago, and gosh has it changed. What used to be a rustic jumble of stalls is now a large and bustling enterprise, with many stalls now housed in permanent buildings. It still retains a great deal of charm though, and we happily spent over three hours roaming through the stalls of food, crafts and clothes. Our breakfast of millet muffins (and a top-up muffin in the car) kept us going until lunchtime, when I devoured a buckwheat crepe filled with rocket, tomato and feta, generously topped with pesto and washed down with iced tea: a delicious blend of chai with a good hit of ginger.
After a little more wandering we headed south, stopping at The Ginger Factory in Yandina. Although this is a fairly touristy attraction, we spent a pleasant hour rummaging in the gift shop, drinking coffee and strolling through the rainforest walk. I became enamoured, not of the trees, but of their shadows on the ground.
Further south we headed inland to Maleny, a favourite hinterland town of ours. After a trawl through some of the local second-hand bookstores we headed to David Linton’s Furniture and Timber Works showroom. Nearly two years ago on our first visit to Maleny we saw a beautiful wooden cheese board which has haunted us all this time. We didn’t find anything like it unfortunately, but we did find a lovely small board made from camphor wood and a much larger chopping board fashioned from a beautiful, irregular piece of mango. We hesitated for a while over the price tag but eventually settled on both pieces. We’ll have them for the rest of our lives, we reason, and each time we use them we’ll be reminded of a perfect day and the happiest of celebrations.
2 1/4 cups wholemeal flour (Heidi specifies whole wheat pastry flour, but I can’t find this and find regular wholemeal flour to work fine)
1/3 cup raw millet
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup plain yoghurt
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup melted unsalted butter
1/2 cup runny honey
Grated zest and 2 Tbsp juice from 1 lemon
Preheat the oven to 200°C/390°F. Butter a muffin tin, or line with muffin cups. Whisk together the flour, millet, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a large bowl. In another bowl place the yoghurt, eggs, melted butter, honey, lemon zest and juice and whisk together until smooth. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and stir together only until the flour is just incorporated, taking care not to over mix. Spoon the batter into the muffin cases, filling to a little below the rim. (Note that I find that the baking powder and soda start to work almost immediately, probably stimulated by the acidic lemon juice. The mixture puffs up a little, which is why it sometimes makes 14 muffins rather than a standard 12.) Place the muffin tin in the oven and bake for 15 minutes until the tops are browned and beginning to crack.