Spiced Cranberry and Pistachio Muffins

Spiced Cranberry and Pistachio Muffins (0027) by Meeta K. Wolff

I never saw my grandmother with a cookbook. Nor do I remember seeing any cookbooks on the shelves of the Delhi house. Nani was not the cookbook type of cook. She had a wide repertoire of dishes that she cooked with utmost finesse and each one of those dishes were carefully prepared with her own personal signature ingredient to specifically highlight the particular dish.

As my mum and her sisters were growing up, Nani handed down these recipes to them. Not in writing however, because Nani believed cooking could not be learned by reading. In the hot kitchen, which was located on the veranda behind the house, the adolescent girls were administered into the art of cooking. While they assisted her with the chopping, peeling or grinding of vegetables and spices, Nani would narrate the recipes to them, guiding them resolutely through the cooking of an entire meal.

Precise amounts never existed in Nani’s recipes.

“A pinch” of saffron here “a handful” of coriander leaves there, stirred into a few “cupfuls” of dried lentils were the only amounts given to her amateur pupils.

“Cooking is an art that comes from deep within you. It is not rocket science which needs precise amounts. To develop this art all one needs is good taste!”

That was Nani’s logic. No one argued with it.

Spiced Cranberry and Pistachio Muffins (0024) by Meeta K. Wolff

Several years later, as a young teenager, I found a leather portfolio in the bottom drawer of my mother’s desk. It was bound with an unattractive cord, its only purpose to keep the bulging contents from straying. Normally, I would not have been interested in its contents but the sheer thickness of the portfolio made me curious. As I untied the cord, the portfolio with a sighing heave, spilled papers of all sizes and colors all over the floor.

Noticing mum’s cursive sometimes illegible handwriting I took a closer look. She had scribbled recipes on small pieces of paper, some crumpled and ripped from notebooks, others, on envelopes or on index cards. I even found one on the back of a boarding pass.

Like Nani, mum did not own any cookbooks, but she was in the habit of writing down recipes she found, or particularly liked. Unlike Nani, mum was a keen baker and believed that precision in baking was the key to perfection. So, as I discovered there were exact amounts for flour, sugar and butter on those pieces of crumpled paper. I noticed a stack of papers, neatly tied with some red twine, still in the portfolio. As I pulled out the stack, mum came into the room and saw me sitting in the midst of a pool of paper. She took the stack out of my hand and put them aside and helped me fill the portfolio again. Finally, she held the stack of paper in her hands and told me “these are Nani’s recipes.”

She told me how everyday she and my aunts would help Nani in the kitchen, Nani showing them how to cook her famous “saag paneer” or the perfect crispy cauliflower “parathas”. Mum would run back and forth from the kitchen to her room, where she would jot down the recipe. She often got a scolding from Nani for being so erratic and for not focusing properly, but what Nani could not have known, was that mum wanted to make sure she remembered each of her recipes to be able to create them exactly the way Nani did.

“The scolding was worth it!” she smirked

Spiced Cranberry and Pistachio Muffins (0020) by Meeta K. Wolff

My mum bid farewell to me a few years later. I was 19, leaving home for the first time to study and train in Europe. Before I left, she handed me a thick book and told me it would help me in times of need. Without looking I thanked her and hurried to board the plane. Once seated, I took the book out and looked at the cover. It made me grin. I was holding the first cookbook my mother ever bought. The inscription, written in her curly, flowing streaks, still echoes in my ears today.

“Cooking is an art and a science. Use your good taste to experiment!”

These are my mum’s wise words – and I won’t argue with it!

Spiced Cranberry and Pistachio Muffins (0037) by Meeta K. Wolff

These muffins are just that – an experiment of good taste with some of my favorite ingredients and spices. Cardamom, cinnamon and ginger add a brilliant warmth while the cranberries give the muffins the perfect tangy yet sweet bite. The pistachios add a delicate nutty crunch, making the muffins piece of art.

Recipe: Spiced Cranberry and Pistachio Muffins

Printable version of recipe here

 Spiced Cranberry and Pistachio Muffins by Meeta K. Wolff

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes

For fruit

  • 300g all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 140g cranberries
  • 155g + 1 tablespoon muscovado sugar
  • 70g + 1 tablespoon pistachios, coarsely chopped
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 185 ml buttermilk
  • 125 ml vegetable oil
  • 1 egg, lightly whisked


  1. Preheat oven to 200 degrees C. Line a muffin pan with 12 paper cases.

  2. Place the cranberries in a heatproof bowl, pour with boiling water and cover. Set aside for 10 minutes to soak. Drain well.

  3. Combine flour, sugar, pistachio, ginger, cinnamon, cardamom and cranberries in a large bowl. In a jug whisk together buttermilk, oil and egg together. Add buttermilk mixture to flour mixture and stir until just combined making sure not to overmix. Spoon evenly among the lined pans.

  4. Combine the extra pistachios and sugar in a small bowl and sprinkle over the muffins.
  5. Bake in oven for 20 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean when tested. Turn onto a wire rack. Serve warm.

  6. Serve with creamy butter and your favorite preserve.


Spiced Cranberry and Pistachio Muffins (0034) by Meeta K. Wolff

The muffins taste superb warm. We’ll usually enjoy them for long lazy Sunday brunches, with a slathering of sour cream butter and a fruity preserve. They are also perfect for a teatime treat or for surprise lunchbox goodie.

I recently wrapped up a photo project for the German magazine Laviva, which hits the stands here in Germany today. It is a fantastic seven page spread where I had a great time working with the Editor in Chief and the Photo Editor. Here is a little peek ...

Laviva Rezeptstrecke

Laviva Rezeptstrecke 

Over on the Plate to Page website our guest writer this week is the incredibly talented Prop Stylist Paula Walters. In her article she shares with us how what her profession requires and how a typical day would look like.

More magnificent muffins from WFLH:

Strawberry Lime Polenta Muffins Whole Wheat Granola Goji Muffins Orange Chocolate Muffins

All photographs and written content on What's For Lunch, Honey? © 2006-2011 Meeta Khurana Wolff unless otherwise indicated. | All rights reserved | Please Ask First

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  1. What a great spread in Laviva!
    I loved the quote of your mom: “Cooking is an art and a science. Use your good taste to experiment!”
    So true!
    The muffins look gorgeous and they sound perfect for a lazy Sunday brunch indeed:)

  2. Oh Meeta...our stories are very similar..my nani was an excellent cook..only my mum never liked it...somehow i got the bug ;-)..I always have a bulging folder with recipe clippings that ive collected since i was little...
    Oh yes those muffins warm with clotted cream and jam...yummmy for a sunday breakfast!

  3. What a beautiful, heartfelt post, Meeta. I wish I had had a mother or grandmother like yours...what a gift! And the tale is wonderful. And perfect muffins that make me want to head into the kitchen to bake. xo

  4. I love the rustic appeal of this photos, Meeta. It has such nostalgia attached to it. Just bought a whole lot of those bamboo thingies, so cute!!

  5. Oh this reminds me of when I sat down with my own grandma, as well as a grand aunt, to transcribe their recipes...no exact measurements indeed! I would get instructions like "get one pig's pata (leg)...make sure you see the hoof!". Heehee :) Old recipes like to have a certain magic and it's good that we take measures to preserve them...your mum is indeed very wise!

  6. Lovely post Meeta! Your muffins look gorgeous! cranberry and pistachios are a great combination that must be tried!

  7. What gorgeousness. You are so fortunate that your mom wrote down recipes.. I wish I had some of ma's handwritten recipes, now that i do not have her with me and often times wish I could ask her so many things.. but they end in a sigh. I have just one little paper, which she had mailed when i was already here.. that's it. She never owned any cookbooks either.

    Love the perfect fall flavors here!

  8. How gorgeous. I have never put jam on a muffin - this looks like such a good idea and i'll bet right out of the oven these are delicious.

  9. what a genuine & love filled story. i really enjoyed reading that

  10. Great muffins and amazing pictures! Congratulations on your feature. Your work is just so great.



  11. First of all, a big congratulations to you my dear on that beautiful spread. Much deserved! Now... these muffins. I like muffins... ok. But I can pass them up. But these guys I would not be able to resist.

  12. Congratulations on the magazine feature Meeta, looks fantastic! The muffins look scrumptious, love the combination of cranberries and pistachios so festive!

  13. Meeta,

    You share the same name as my mom :)

    Reading this post definitely reminded me of great times, learning how to bake and cook with my mom.

    Congrats on the beautiful spread!

  14. Meeta,

    You share the same name as my mom :)

    Reading this post definitely reminded me of great times, learning how to bake and cook with my mom.

    Congrats on the beautiful spread!

  15. I've never seen my mother cooking from a cookbook either. There was no such thing at home... I like to experiment in the kitchen as well -even if it means failing sometimes...
    Interesting combination of flavours in your muffins.
    And good job for Laviva !

  16. Congratulations on the magazine feature Meeta it looks great! How wonderful to have a folder of your grandmother's recipes, that's a real treasure. My grandmother kept a folder like that and it's now one of my most cherished possessions.

  17. What a nice post...Don't think any of the grannies ever had cookbooks :)

    BTW, would love to get hold of your grandma's saag paneer recipe.

  18. Sounds like great advice! Wonderful muffins, totally original and would love to inhale a couple just about now!

  19. What a wonderful tale - it sounds like it came from the pages of a book itself.

  20. Meeta your writing just made me teary eyed. My mom never writes down recipes like your grandmom and whenever I call her for a recipe she say 'follow your heart and cook'. I love the tradition of passing down recipes, they are really the most precious. And your muffins, they are so beautiful, all the flavors I love.

  21. This recipe is so precious, I mean your grandmother was a magician at the kitchen! Thank you for sharing it with us, I love pistachios!

  22. Such a beautiful story, thank you for sharing. I look forward enjoying your warm muffins with my morning coffee soon!

  23. Hey Meeta,
    You have got such a lovely blog.I am a big fan of your pictures. They look absolutly stunning and not to mention the mouth watering recipe that you have. I have started following your blog.
    Visit me when you are free @ www.lifescoops.blogspot.com

  24. These photos are so incredible, I really, really, really want to know you better! Loved the story and recipe too--beautiful post.

  25. Congratulations on the piece in Laviva Meeta! That must be so cool to have a 7 page spread in a magazine... I love the memories of your Nani cooking in the kitchen. I wish my family would have been a little bit more into cooking when I was younger... It would have sure made me a better cook I think..
    Love the look of these muffins too!

  26. Oh Meeta, those muffins look beautiful!!!!! And I am totally in love with the cake stand in that first photo.

    Congratulations on the magazine feature. You are one talented woman!

  27. Being a mama's girl and a grandmama's girl...I can't help but shed a tear reading your blog. I got the love for cooking from these 2 great women in my life. Although I did not inherit their skills, what I come up with my kitchen experiments are all for my mom and grandmama... I am thankful that you shared a piece of your heart to me through your recipe...

  28. Such a beautiful post Meeta! Loved reading about your Mom and Granny!
    Muffins sound great! Love the addition of spices :)

  29. Congrats on well deserved print space Meeta...it's gorgeous! Sorry I've been MIA {don't ask}, but I have missed so much. Tales of your Mum and Nani are all too familiar, a strange connect that runs through a lot of us. That quote, those words...sigh, just so comforting and wonderful! These are fabulous muffins. Hugs!

  30. Those muffins look so good! I like the cranberry and pistachio combo!

  31. Thank you everyone for all your wonderful comments. So glad you enjoyed hearing about my nani and mum! Two awesome women in my life that have inspired me to great extents! These muffins are addictive so be warned :o)

  32. My mom lost her own mom when she was only eight years old so she really had no legacy of family recipes to call on or to pass on to me. She did, however, love cooking and like your mom she was always scribbling down recipes on random bits of paper. I found her recipe for nutty brown bread written on the back of minutes of a meeting of the Society of South African Radiographers of which she was president! Her index book of handwritten recipes was one of the first things I brought with me to the UK after her death and would probably be the first thinggerondp I saved if my house caught fire.

    Love the muffins - cranberry and pistachio is one of my favourite flavour combos.

  33. These muffins looks amazing! Can I have a bite? :)
    And great story

  34. What a treasure you have in that little book, and the flavors in these muffins sounds intriguing.

  35. Lovely post and beautiful, tastefully taken pictures! Literally :) I would love to try many of your recipes but what is holding me back is the ml/g thing. Is there anyway to easily convert g to cups, or ml to ounces? Other than getting out the calculator for each ingredient?

  36. Thank you so much for all your wonderful and heartfelt comments. I think it's probably my best part after writing such a post to read your thoughts experiences on the same topic. Thank you!

    Kiyoko - I use the metric system - born with it and shall die with it. But Convert-me.com should help you further with any conversion issues ;o)


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