Category Archives: Healthy

Buttermilk sourdough loaf…

This loaf came about from pure experiment because I had some lovely lively starter and wanted to do something different with it, plus I have always got various cartons of buttermilk to hand nowadays, and so this idea was born.

This recipe produced a lovely silky dough which baked into a crusty loaf with a wonderfully soft interior and a great flavour, and the smell was amazing! Due to the inclusion of plain all purpose flour the crumb is pillow soft rather than the usual chewy sourdough crumb, and the buttermilk only adds to that.

I made this loaf with a ‘sponge’ method…

The evening before you want to bake the loaf mix:

100g of very bubbly lively starter

284ml carton of buttermilk

150g of all purpose flour

Mix it all together really well, get it as smooth as you can, then cover it and leave it out on your kitchen counter overnight. (Top 2 photos below)

Next morning it should have grown and be spongelike. (Bottom 2 photos above – you can see how much it’s grown between the two sets of photos)

Now add:

300g strong white flour

1tsp salt

A splash or two of warm water

Mix it all together roughly, cover again and leave for an hour. (Top 2 photos below)After that hour, bring it into a dough, not too tight, not too sticky, performing some pulls and folds in the bowl to pull it into a smooth dough. (Bottom 2 photos show before and after pulls and folds)

Cover and leave on the counter again.

After a couple of hours you should already see this dough growing happily, the dough may even be starting to grow out of the bowl already; perform just enough pulls and folds to pull it into a ball with a smooth finish, don’t handle it too much.

Place the dough, smooth side down, into a well floured banneton.

Cover with a plastic bag or shower cap and place in the fridge to slow down the proving process and to increase the flavour. You should find that it keeps growing nicely over the next few hours, even in the fridge, as below. This was how the dough looked after only a few hours in the fridge. It grows very fast!

When you’re ready to bake, take the banneton from the fridge and leave the dough to warm up to room temperature whilst your oven warms up.

Heat the oven to 200C fan/230c non fan.

When the oven is ready, place a piece of baking parchment over the top of the banneton, then place the pan you are baking it in over the top and invert it all together to turn the dough out into the pan. You should have a lovely pale dough that holds a good shape.

Slash as you like, then put the lid on the pan and put it in the oven to bake for 50 minutes.

After 50 minutes carefully turn the loaf out onto a rack to cool. Allow the loaf to cool for at least an hour before slicing.

As you will see, the crumb is closer than a standard sourdough, which is perfect for making my son’s school sandwiches. In fact, the interior of the loaf was softer than any bread of any type I’ve ever baked. I’ll definitely be baking loaves like this again and again.

And I have now made 3 loaves the same way, this was the third one, and again, the interior is beautifully soft…

I’ve also made a loaf with whole milk this week, but I’ll share that next time…in the meantime, I’ll take my loaves to this week’s Fiesta Friday and wish you a happy weekend!

NOTE: please always keep in mind that flours differ around the world, yours may need more or less liquid than mine, just as your oven may behave differently from mine.

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Pimping leftovers with Petra’s goodies…

I LOVE leftovers; to me, leftovers, or foods eaten a day or two after cooking/preparing them, taste vastly better than they did on day one. Flavours develop to create something so good that I pretty much always plan for leftovers and extras…

Today I had a variety of cooked vegetables and fresh herbs to use up and I decided to pimp them with some new products in my cupboard: last year my lovely blog friend, Petra, from the blog Food Eat Love, starting selling her homemade food products at her local Saturday market. She started off with amazingly pretty fresh pastas and sauces, and then expanded into sauces and crackers and jams and chutneys. Recently, she sent me some goodies to try, and I have used most of them in my dishes today. Let me show you…

These are what Petra sent me to try…lucky me! The two bottles that you can’t see the labels on are a ‘very hot hot sauce’ and a sweet chilli ginger sauce.

I’m afraid the dry tomato and coconut chutney was devoured first a little while ago, it was so good I literally ate in from the jar in two sittings..

If you can try this stuff, you really should! Included in the ingredients are cobnuts which give the chutney a great texture. But the rest I played with today…

So to today’s pimping…this was my lunch platter…

It includes…

Leftover broccoli & cauliflower, blended with yoghurt, crunchy hazelnut butter & Petra’s sweet chilli ginger sauce which added great flavour to the vegetables.

My homemade garlic mayonnaise pimped with Petra’s very hot hot sauce – perfect pimping.

Leftover roasted carrots & red onions blended with tahini, yoghurt & lemon juice…so good, the lemon juice and roasted carrots always works well together.

Fresh flat leaf parsley & coriander chopped up with my pickled garlic, spring onions, ground cumin, Aleppo chilli flakes, salt, olive oil, my homemade apple cider vinegar & Petra’s caramelised Seville orange & chilli treacle – I often add pomegranate molasses to my salsa verde concoctions and this was a great alternative.

All eaten with Petra’s Carta Di Musica flatbreads which are wonderfully thin and crunchy.

How’s that for a tasty lunch? And a perfect use of leftovers! Even if I do say so myself…;)

So a big thank you to Petra for letting me try some of her great products. I shall be sharing my concoctions with everyone at this week’s Fiesta Friday, which is after all, where Petra and I ‘met’. In the meantime, do check out Petra’s Instagram page if you’re an instagram user and enjoy her beautiful pups as well as those gorgeous pastas…one day I’ll get to try some of them!

A very useful masala curry paste…

I’ve made this curry paste several times recently, it adds great flavour to any dish, plus it’s packed full of goodness and immunity boosting ingredients for this time of year.

I’ve used it to make masala sauces, added it to soups, and vegetable curries…

I’ve baked eggs into the sauce…

And I’ve made chicken curries for my boys with it.

I highly recommend making a huge amount of it and use it lavishly!

I have used lots of spices from the lovely Spice Kitchen UK and you’ll find the full recipe on their blog…I hope you like it!

Toasted rice green tea…

I drink a lot of green tea, and I’ve tried many many types and flavours, and my favourite is definitely ‘genmaicha’, a Japanese green tea with ‘genmai’ or roasted rice. The smell when you make the tea is gorgeous, and the rice adds a wonderful flavour to it. Some makes call it popcorn green tea because of how good it smells, a bit like popcorn.

As happens, a lot, I wondered about roasting the rice myself and making my own version of the tea so that I can control the amount of rice and the flavour – added to which, genmaicha tea is never the cheapest green tea to buy so why not attempt my own??

I had some roasted leaf green tea in my cupboard and thought that the toasted rice would be a nice addition to it, so I set about the Internet to see if anyone else had made their own too. I found one site with some useful information and I made my own assessment of what they’d done and made my own plan…

In a perfect world you’d use proper Japanese rice, but failing that, I used what I had: weirdly, I used Spanish paella rice. The rice is white and plump and looks a bit like a Japanese rice so why not?

I soaked the rice in lots of water for 24 hours then drained and dried it.

I then toasted it in a wide non stick pan over a medium heat for about 20 mins, moving it constantly. As it started to brown, I kept a really keen eye on it and didn’t leave it alone at all to ensure none of it burnt.

I then poured it into a large piece of grease proof paper to cool before testing it in my tea.

And hey presto! It works!!! It tastes great! It’s so cool!

So, if you’ve never tried it before, how about making your own genmaicha?

I’m taking my tea along to this week’s Fiesta Friday, co hosted this week by Diann and Antonia, and hope that everyone enjoys a refreshing cup of my homemade genmaicha…

UPDATE: I have now also soaked and toasted brown basmati rice which I added to loose sencha green tea – this works REALLY well. The rice smells so good and adds great flavour, and some even pop in the pan. And the sencha is a lovely smooth refreshing green tea…

How to eat as a vegetarian…

A friend of ours has recently decided to stop eating meat. That sounds simple, but if you’ve always eaten meat, it’s not as simple as it sounds. If you’ve never really thought too hard about what you eat, it could be a complete shock to the system. Our friend is definitely finding that to be the case.

Knowing that I am vegetarian, he has picked my brain a few times, and it has made me think that it could be an interesting post for anyone making the same change to their diet.

Removing meat means losing vital nutrients in your diet, all of which are easily replaceable as long as you know what you’re doing. The main one is obviously protein, but also vitamin B12, vitamin D, zinc, iron, calcium and omega 3 fatty acids. These can all be easily found in vegetarian food choices. Eggs, dairy, nuts and seeds are your friends, along with other ingredients that you wouldn’t necessarily think of like beans, legumes/pulses, some grains, lentils, oats which all contain protein. Other sources are listed below:

Vitamin B12: eggs and dairy are the best options

Vitamin D: is very difficult to find as a food source; I take cod liver oil tablets which give me omega 3 fatty acids, as well as much needed vitamin D

Iron: try legumes, nuts, seeds, prunes, raisins, kale, broccoli, spinach – eat with a source of vitamin C for maximum effect as it aids absorption of the iron (sweet potato is a great option for this, as it’s packed with vitamin C)

Zinc: whole grains, nuts, seeds, eggs, dairy, lentils

Omega 3 fatty acids: flaxseeds, flaxseed oil, also walnuts, soybeans, olive oil, hemp oil

*Many of these tips can also be applied to a vegan diet, removing the eggs and dairy

If you’ve always eaten meat, a typical meal would have no doubt been built around the meat portion: you start with the meat, and then add the extras, vegetables, potatoes, pasta, rice etc. When you don’t eat meat, or fish, or both, you have to think differently, unless you choose meat replacement products like quorn or tofu of course. I don’t eat those things so my meals are created differently. And you can’t just replace a portion of meat with a similar size portion of cheese: imagine a chicken breast sized piece of cheese?! Heart stopping stuff!!

Vegetarian proteins are not always lean proteins like some meat, you need to be aware of portion sizes. Nuts and seeds are great and provide so much goodness, but you can’t eat great piles of them any more than you can full fat cheese without it starting to affect your waistline.

If you are suddenly introducing your digestion to more vegetables, and legumes, than it’s used to, it may cause bloating and wind. In fact, I would suggest that you expect it, then it won’t be a surprise! All that extra fibre will take a bit of getting used to.

A lack of some of the key nutrients might make you feel achey, and it may be worth at some point requesting a blood test to see if you do have any deficiencies, or low levels, of any nutrients to help you understand what you need to boost.

People think that vegetarianism, or veganism, is a way to lose weight; the opposite can often be the case. It’s very easy to end up with very carbohydrate heavy meals. Think about how you filled your plate when you ate meat and keep the amounts of carbohydrate to a similar amount and fill up on salad and less heavy vegetables. I’m told that meat protein is very filling, so your meal now needs to include different filling foods without it being all carbs.

Becoming vegetarian just takes a bit of planning and understanding until it becomes second nature, which to me is all part of the fun of it, but to others may be new and daunting. Do lots of reading and research and read great blogs (like mine!) and other people’s experiences. Our bodies are all different, but the basics will be the same.

I make everything that I eat, but that’s my choice because I have the time, the inclination, and I love it! I love knowing exactly what is in the food that I eat, and I can manage exactly what my body needs. If that is not your inclination, or you don’t have the time, there are a lot of vegetarian choices available in supermarkets and restaurants nowadays. I have no interest in eating ‘meat replacement’ foods, they’re just not my thing, but if you do want to try them, I believe they are often fortified with helpful nutrients for vegetarians.

Becoming vegetarian really doesn’t have to be hard work.

If you are worried that you’re going to be hungry without meat, or fish, it really isn’t the case. You may feel a different kind of fullness, you may even notice that you don’t feel as ‘heavy’ or sluggish after meals because your body is no longer working hard to process the meat protein. But hungry, no, I never go hungry, ever!!!

That may all seem a lot to take in, so let me give you some ideas of what I do…

*I pack out my morning porridge with flaxseeds, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, chopped nuts as well as the oats and lots of spices

*I ensure that I include a source of protein in every meal, whether I top dishes with cheese, low fat cream cheese, goats cheese, chopped nuts, seeds or a swirl of plain yoghurt – I eat a lot of natural yoghurt because I love it which helps – whether I include quinoa, a magic grain packed with protein, whether I add dollops of homous or other dips

*I use ground almonds/almond flour in place of breadcrumbs where I can (I also prefer the flavour), or as a thickener in sauces or curries

*Tahini is wonderful! Tahini is a sesame seed paste packed full of goodness. Use it to make homous (another winner in the nutrition stakes), use it in place of cream, swirl it through soup, eat it from the pot! (Sparingly though!!)

*Homous really is your friend, it provides so much in one perfect dip. And you can eat it in so many ways, not just with carrots stick or pieces of pita bread

*Nut butters are great, again you can add them to so many recipes; for example, make a batch of bean chilli and add a spoonful of peanut butter

*Eggs baked in tomato sauces are a godsend – the perfect fast food

*Or eggs cooked in vegetable hashes (top right)

*Another idea that I’ve read but haven’t tried yet, it using chopped walnuts as a mince replacement in things like bolognese sauce or ragu

*Portobello mushrooms are noted for a having meaty texture and often provide a satisfying feel in the mouth for those missing meat

*Bacon alternatives can be made with slices of sweet potato, or indeed aubergine

*Chorizo flavours can be created with spices, particularly smoked paprika and chilli powder

If you are deciding to remove meat, and maybe fish, from your diet, I would definitely recommend to phase it out, going ‘cold turkey’ could put your body into shock and create discomfort. Maybe start by removing red meats, then poultry and white meats, then fish etc.

Whatever you choose to do, I wish you great luck, and I am always available if I can assist with any ideas…

*If you know someone who might find this useful, please do pass it on. Thank you 🙂

I am sharing my tips with everyone at this week’s Fiesta Friday, co hosted this week by Lily and Alisa

Making your own apple cider vinegar…

When I started making fruit yeast water bread from apples, I didn’t realise that I was taking the first steps towards making apple cider vinegar, as fermenting apples in water is pretty much all it takes to make your own ACV.

I’ve now made several batches of my own, using 3 different methods, and I can state from my experience that the simplest is the best. Like with all these things, if you search methods and recipes, you will find endless options, some more convoluted than others, some requiring daily stirring, some requiring the addition of uncooked chickpeas and bulgur wheat, and all extolling the virtues of creating a ‘mother’.

This quote is from Wellness Mama: “Apple cider vinegar with the mother is simply unrefined, unpasteurized and unfiltered ACV. The “mother” is a colony of beneficial bacteria, similar to a Kombucha SCOBY, that helps create vinegar through a secondary fermentation process.”

The mother is what makes apple cider vinegar a bit cloudy or murky looking, and what gives it it’s goodness. Not every attempt at making vinegar generates a mother, and the vinegar is still good without it. Creating a mother is the pinnacle in making apple cider vinegar, and what we must all wish to manage, but you haven’t failed if you don’t achieve it. Just making your own vinegar is good fun, and it tastes really good. Mine haven’t been as sharp as mass produced vinegar, they’ve been much more subtle and much more obviously made of apples.

Every batch I’ve made has tasted different, with varying levels acidity, and all different colours. It’s not the easiest stuff to photograph, but this should show what I mean…

These are all apple cider vinegars. The photos below show them in the process of fermenting, you can see how the colour changes. The honey coloured liquid, in the middle above, started off as the cloudy yellow jars on the far right photo below..

So, where to begin to make apple cider vinegar…

You need a clean jar/vessel, water, apples and honey, and some cheesecloth.

*I’ve used organic apples and non organic, and both have worked.

*I’ve used water boiled and cooled, and water from the tap, and both have worked, but our water has very little chlorine in it. If yours has more chlorine, or you’re not sure, then use boiled and cooled water.

*I’ve used standard runny honey and a milder set honey, and both have worked.

Choose your biggest jar or jug to make the most out of your efforts (hence me using two below)

Wash your apples and roughly chop them into chunks, removing the stalk, but keeping the peel and core and seeds.

PLEASE NOTE: you can just use apple peels and cores if you’ve got them leftover from a recipe. It’s a great way to use peelings!

Fill your vessel 2 thirds with apples, top up with water and add a tablespoon of honey. A rule of thumb is to add a tablespoon of honey per litre of water.

Use a clean jar or bowl as a weight to keep the apples under water (between explained in the photos below), cover with cheesecloth/muslin to keep any fruit flies out, and let vapours escape.

Make a note of the date, place the vessel in a dark cupboard and forget about it for 3 weeks…well, not completely. Check it every so often to ensure that there is no mould or fruit flies, and that the fruit remains under water.

*If mould appears it will be green; I had little green fluffy balls appear on a batch when I experimented with pears, and again when I tried using a pomegranate. If mould appears I’m afraid all is lost and you need to discard everything and start again.

*Initially you will see bubbles as the fruit ferments. That’s good. They will eventually settle down.

*It will smell amazing!

After 3 weeks, drain your liquid through clean cheesecloth/muslin and collect it in another clean jar and add another tablespoon of honey.

Discard the apples.

*If you have made vinegar previously and have some left, or you have kept some of your own vinegar mother, you can add a bit of that too.

Cover the jar once again with cheesecloth/muslin, and put it back in the cupboard, and leave it for another 3 weeks.

*If you see white flecks like I have, it’s fine, these could be yeast, or even a growing mother.

*If you see a white thin jelly like layer forming, that is a mother. Don’t disturb it, just let it happen.

After another 3 weeks, give it all a stir and give it a taste. If you like it, start using it, if you want more acidity, or deeper flavour, let it ferment for longer. Store with a lid firmly in place.

Then start playing, like I have…this week I have started an attempt at sweet potato vinegar…

In December, I started a batch of orange vinegar, just oranges, water & honey…and it smelled AMAZING all over Christmas, perfect timing!

This is what’s left from this jar about once it was drained…and it still smells amazing!

I am loving all of my various vinegars, after so much love, and time, I almost don’t want to use them, but that is why I made them after all…:)

I hope this is all helpful and interesting and you feel inspired! Please do let me know if you have feedback or questions.

I am taking my vinegar along to this week’s Fiesta Friday, I hope you can join the co hosts this week, Lily and Judi, and be inspired by everyone’s dishes..

My idea of ‘fast food’…

I don’t eat what is typically called ‘fast food’. I don’t buy or eat any ready made foods, I make everything I eat. I therefore make sure that my fridge contains things that I’ve made, various dishes, sauces, dips, prepared vegetables, cooked grains, at all times, so that I always have choices of my own food readily available. On the very rare occasion that I haven’t got anything immediately and readily available, and I’m hungry and want something NOW, I reach for the eggs…

Eggs cooked in a tomato sauce is my ‘fast food’.

I’ve always got eggs, and I’ve always got a jar of passata (sieved tomatoes), so that becomes my starting point, and then I add whatever takes my fancy from my fridge or kitchen cupboards. This can include any leftover vegetables, as below, any veg that needs using up (like the spinach included above), herbs, spices, chilli sauces, whatever takes my fancy…

And then I make holes in the mix and crack eggs into them and cook them through.

I usually then also add grated or chunks of cheese (as you can see on all three concoctions), sometimes I sprinkle over seeds or nuts, and very quickly, and simply, I’ve got a filling, tasty, healthy, colourful meal….

This can also be a perfect way to top up on protein for a vegetarian like me, particularly after exercise.

If you already make similar dishes, or fancy giving one a go, just grab some passata or tinned tomatoes and start building a sauce; look around your kitchen and take inspiration from what your fridge or cupboards have to offer, and add some texture and flavour and substance; then once you’re happy with it, make wells in the mixture and break eggs into them and cook.

Then, do as I do, and eat it straight from the pan! Perfect!!! That’s your meal right there – fast and fabulous 🙂