FRESH cranberries, which will remain in the shops throughout December, are now popular because of their health-giving properties.

They are thought to contain five times more antioxidant than broccoli, and so help preserve skin from premature ageing and protect it from various types of skin cancer. They are also thought to help in treating urinary tract infections.

I buy them, however, because I like their taste and keepability. They freeze very well and do not deteriorate in the freezer, making it easy to extract a handful at a time from the freezer, when needed, to add flavour and colour to cakes, breads or muffins.

When buying cranberries, go for the dark red, plumpish, firm cranberries. The darker the colour, the more highly concentrated the nutrients are.

To make a dozen cranberry muffins, you will need: 10oz (300g) plain flour One tbspn baking powder 4oz (125g) butter, melted then left to cool 3oz (75g) caster sugar 2 free-range eggs 8fl oz (225ml) milk Grated rind from one lemon 8oz (225g) fresh cranberries Pinch salt Method: Turn the oven to 200C/400F or gas mark 6 Line a 12-hole muffin tin with deep paper cases Place the flour, baking powder, sugar, salt and grated lemon rind into large bowl and mix together In another bowl, mix the eggs, milk and butter, and then stir into the bowl of dry ingredients Mix together, but be careful not to over-mix, then add the fresh cranberries and stir them gently into the mix Divide the mix between the 12 paper cases, filling almost to the top, and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until golden brown and well risen.

NOTE: a topping of chopped hazel nuts or sliced almonds can be sprinkled on the muffins before placing in the oven to make them even more festive.

These muffins make a great breakfast extra.