Thursday, 24 September 2015

Iznik pottery | Pear muffins

There are a few things to be happy for this September. A new coffee house in the next village pleasantly surprised me with stylish interior design: rustic style meets industrial. I'm finding an excuse to bicycle to the post office more often only to sit down with a book and a latte before heading back home. Then there is a feature on Iznik pottery in the latest The World of Interiors issue with mesmerising motifs and colours. Downton Abbey is back with an interesting storyline and gorgeous costume design. Did you notice Lady Mary's blue kimono-style robe? What else? The heavenly scent of pear muffins baking in the oven. The little things ...

Let us start with that feature in the October issue of The World of Interiors, where art historian John Carswell reviews the catalogue The Ömer Koç Iznik Collection by Hülya Bilgi (600 pages, weighs 5 kilos, sold by John Sandoe Books). It shows the Iznik pottery collection of the Koç family, the wealthiest in Turkey. In his interesting review, Carswell briefly tells the story of the Iznik pottery industry from the beginning of the 15th century until its end 300 years later. In the old days, the formerly Byzantine town Iznik, 100 km south-east of Istanbul, flourished because of its position on the main trade route across Anatolia (Asia Minor) from the East. Today it's a 'sleepy little town' but in the late 13th century it was 'one of the first centres occupied by the Ottoman dynasty' (p. 111).

The images accompanying the article show fascinating motifs on tiles, jugs and dishes, painted in vivid colours. According to Carswell, the hallmarks of Iznik design were cobalt blue, turquoise, manganese purple, olive green and red. 'The designs combine purely Turkish motifs with elements transposed from imported Chinese blue-and-white porcelain' and he adds later that '[w]e have no clue why they chose a specific set of motifs and combined them in such a distinctive and particular way' (p. 112).

If you happen to be travelling to Turkey you may want to visit the Topkapi Palace in Istanbul, to enjoy Iznik tiles. The aforementioned catalogue isn't within my current book-budget but for those interested I found two less pricy books online that I would like to have a look at and perhaps offer a permanent place on my coffee table: Iznik Pottery and Tiles: In the Calouste Gulbenkian Collection by Maria d'Orey Capucho and Iznik: The Artistry of Ottoman Ceramics by Walter B. Denny.

I'm not quite done with patterns. Series 6 of Downton Abbey is upon us and I am head-over-heels in love with Lady Mary's blue kimono style robe that Michelle Dockery wore gracefully in a few scenes in the first episode. I tried to find images of it online to see the pattern in detail, but I had no luck so I just paused a scene on the ITV Player and snapped photos of my tablet (please excuse the poor quality).

I don't know whether the robe/kimono is vintage or especially designed for the show but I love its cut and colour. I think costume designer Anna Robbins is doing a great job with displaying the style of the 1920s. I have to admit that the exhausting plots of the last Downton Abbey series almost made me give up on the show but I'm glad I gave it a chance on Sunday. That first episode was promising ... at least the costumes.

Spotted in these images: Benaki wallpaper sample in blue mink (LW 198381) by Lewis & Wood
and Wild Thing fabric sample in copper cobalt (LW 188335)

October is approaching and autumn is just around the corner. It's time to embrace the season and turn the pears into muffins. You should have seen my children's happy faces the other day when these were waiting for them after school.

These muffins are moderately sugary and stuffed with pears. Someone asked me recently why I use gluten-free baking powder when I bake with flour containing gluten. The simple reason is that the gluten-free baking powder from Doves Farm is my favourite. I don't like regular baking powder, which always seems to have an annoying aftertaste (use 50% less in the recipe if using regular). A note on choosing between the buttermilk and pureed pears for the wet mixture: It depends on whether the pears I use are juicy or slightly firm. If they are firm I like using pureed pears (I buy Hipp Organic jars in the baby food section), which give the muffins a richer pear taste. If using juicy and sweet pears I make my own buttermilk with milk and lemon juice (see tip below). American readers please note that 1 cup of flour is about 125-135 grams, which means there are about 2 cups in the recipe, depending on the type you use.


3 medium-sized pears
1 large egg, free-range
75 g organic unrefined cane sugar (¼ cup)
1-1½ tablespoons honey (or pure maple syrup)
1½ tablespoons coconut oil
60 ml buttermilk or organic pureed pears (¼ cup)
200 g white spelt flour (or organic plain flour)
50 g wholemeal spelt flour
2½ teaspoons baking powder, gluten-free
¼ teaspoon fine sea/Himalayan salt
½ teaspoon ground cardamom
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
optional: a pinch of ground cloves

Peel and core the pears before chopping them finely. Put them aside.

Whisk together the egg, sugar, honey, buttermilk/pureed pears, and coconut oil in a bowl (if the coconut oil is solid place the closed jar in a bowl of hot water before use). If you are making home-made buttermilk let it sit in the measuring cup for a few minutes and whisk it in when it has thickened.

Measure the spelt flour, baking powder, salt and spices into another bowl.

Fold the wet mixture gently into the dry one with a spoon or a spatula and then gently stir in the finely diced pears. At first the batter may appear dry but the pears will add moisture.

Lightly grease 12 silicone muffin cups with coconut oil, spoon the batter into them and place the cups in a muffin tin. Bake at 200°C/400°F (180°C fan oven) for 22-25 minutes. When the muffins are ready, wait for a few minutes before removing them from the silicone cups and then place them on a wire cooling rack.

Uppskrift á íslensku.

If you rather want to use buttermilk instead of pureed pears, it's very easy to make your own. Pour 60 ml (¼ cup) of milk into a measuring cup and add to it 1 teaspoon of freshly squeezed lemon juice. Stir gently and let it sit for a few minutes until it has thickened.


  1. Have you found out anything more about Lady Marys roab? You are the only hit when one googles it. Strange but true. I love the roab, and want it ;)

    1. No, I haven't found anything on that robe. I'm guessing it's vintage.


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