The ideal place to serve muffins is before a blazing fire, says Michael Smith, a champion of English cookery and a consultant on the television series ``Upstairs, Downstairs.'' Huddled by the fireside, you and your guests can toast the muffins as you devour them, using an expanding toasting fork. In England, they may be served in a silver muffin dish with a high domed lid and a hot-water-filled liner.

A ``muffineer,'' similar to a domed pepper shaker, will contain cinnamon, sugar, and (believe it or not) salt for gourmets to sprinkle on their muffins, Mr. Smith said in an interview.

He recommends a jam dish full of homemade preserves or soft fruit butters (also delicious on scones or crumpets or just plain buttered toast) as an accompaniment.

Traditional toppings also include butter and Gentlemen's Relish (a type of p^at'e of anchovies), or pieces of honeycomb.

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