Tag Archives: bread

Winter Vegetables

Well, just take a look out the window. Chances are it is raining, or the sun may be glaring, but you know that it’s freezing outside, that misleading swine. This was the view from our living room window at about 3pm this afternoon. Miserable, isn’t it ?

A couple of friends and I have taken up yoga in an attempt to beat our winter blues (and premature back pain). I realise that it is only October, but for someone who hates this lack of sun and heat as much as I, it may as well already be winter; I’m seriously considering hibernation. As we spilled onto the pavement outside Brighton’s Buddhist centre last Friday evening after a class, limber and supple and refreshed into the chilly night air, we encountered a farmer’s market about to close for the evening. With gleeful excitement we perused the colourful array of tasty and healthy fruit and veg and outstayed our welcome long enough to warrant free figs. We ate yellow baby tomatoes out of a paper bag as we walked home in our leggings, each with our own respective plans to make soup for dinner that evening. It seemed like the perfect way to round off the day.

My choice: chunky vegetable and lentil – just saute an onion, add 500ml vegetable stock, cube a potato and some butternut squash, add a few handfuls of lentils and simmer for 20 or so minutes. Throw in a can of chopped tomatoes, a tablespoon of tomato puree, and some chopped leafy greens (I used spinach and kale). Season as you wish.

Freeze what you can’t physically fit into your tiny, cold-shrunk stomach in mismatched plastic tubs. Above is this very soup in its frozen form, a soup-cicle, if you will. It is necessary, as I find myself making a lot of soup recently, what with having developed somewhat of an obsession with fresh vegetables and farmers’ markets.

And another good way of using up a mismatch of leftover veg…

… like I need an excuse to make pizza.

I’ve been experimenting with different doughs. This here pizza is on the gluten-free base I have made previously. It’s nutty and chewy, kind of like a wholegrain, savoury cookie, topped with a plethora of Mediterranean delight.

I went to the Turkish/Greek market near where I live, one of those ones with all the fresh olives and sun-dried tomatoes and artichokes and baklava on display, and you can spoon them, dripping in oil and herbs, into little tupperware dishes and pay per lb; with freshly baked bread, pitta and fruits and vegetables and nuts and yoghurt and all the goat and sheep’s cheese you could possibly want at any one time. Going there is like a trip to the zoo for me. Markets are beautiful.

I bought some halva and some Greek yoghurt, the figs and the feta. A true Mediterranean feast. Though I have never visited Greece, I feel like this was a subconscious effort on my part to ignore how cold and grey and dreary England is becoming. I like to think that the figs on this pizza add a little sunshine to my wintery squash vibe.

Feta and butternut squash pizza with fig and caramelised onion

Roast some butternut squash with olive oil, salt, pepper and rosemary for about 25 – 30 minutes on medium-high heat.

While the squash is roasting, caramelise your onions.

When you take it out, mash it up a bit. I didn’t think the figs would go very well with tomato pizza sauce, so I left it out. You can either go commando or make some kind of cheese or white sauce with which to top your pizza (I find a mixture of cream cheese and lemon juice works well on tomato-less pizzas), or just drizzle some olive oil over the top, then spread the mashed butternut squash mixture across your pizza base of choice (Wholemeal, gluten-free, or see below !).

Slice your figs, crumble your feta (any goat’s cheese would work well) and arrange your onions over the top, with an extra sprinkling of rosemary and pepper for good measure (use judgement – too much rosemary can end up tasting soapy, I’ve heard…). I chose to omit the final dash of salt I usually put over my pizzas before baking – mozzarella needs it, feta does not.

Providing your pizza base has been pre-cooked, you should only need to cook your assembled pizza for about 10-15 minutes.

The colours on this remind me of a seventies caravan.

Pizza Fiorentina

So, from Greece back to the homeland of the pizza, tonight I made fiorentina. That’s tomato, mozzarella, spinach, black olives and artichokes all topped off with a poached egg, black pepper and parmesan cheese. It’s perfect.

This is my favourite food to eat of all time.

On my journey to create the perfect pizza base I have had to relinquish some of my health-fascism in the form of using WHITE FLOUR. Well, as I read on a forum wherein the pros and cons of wholemeal flour were being discussed, some things where just not meant to be wholemeal. Pizza dough is one of them. Sure, I will happily make and eat a wholemeal pizza crust, but you can’t compare it to those soft, chewy and smooth white bases that the Italians and a number of UK-Italian restaurants do so well.

So I’m trying this recipe tonight, with the semolina and strong white. It turned out really good, if not a little crispy. At the moment I’m yearning for that stretchy, doughy puffiness that I can never seem to achieve with homemade pizza, especially not in the gluten-free or wholemeal versions. It is so elusive.

I’ll let you know when I get there.

Amy x

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French Onion Soup

I found some cheddar in my freezer.

I had a big fat juicy onion that needed some lovin’.

I grabbed some vegetable stock. Gotta have stock. Never know when the mood for soup’s gonna hit ya.

Being a person who never knows when the mood for anything is going to hit her, I keep my kitchen fully stocked with an array of ingredients, no matter how often or how little they are used. One of these ingredients is fortified wine. Which just so happens to make a fantastic French Onion Soup.

All I needed to do was shuffle up to the shop and get a crusty, wholemeal roll to toast and adorn my fragrant and flavoursome French friend.

French Onion Soup for One

Preheat your grill to high.

Peel and chop one large yellow onion into rings.

Heat a dab of butter and a splash of olive oil in a pan. On a low heat, cook onions, stirring every 5 minutes or so, for 25 minutes, until they are sweet and caramelised.

Add a few drops of balsamic vinegar and a sprinkling of sugar.

Stir 1-2 tablespoons of cornflour into the onion mixture to thicken it slightly.

Stir 2-3 tablespoons of sherry or white wine into about 200ml of vegetable stock (which works just as well as the beef stock that is traditionally called for in this recipe). Add to onion mixture.

Let simmer for a few minutes while you toast a slice of wholemeal bread.

Pour the soup into an oven-proof bowl. Top with toast. You can cut into croutons if you wish.

Cover with a generous layer of cheese and grill for a few minutes until cheese is melted and bubbling. Gruyere or emmenthal is usually used to top this soup, but what sane person has gruyere or emmenthal just lying around ? Cheddar is the common man’s cheese, and cheddar is what I had, so cheddar is what I used.

Gobble up. It’s so comforting.

Winter is coming.

Carrot Flax-bread

Well, this is certainly not what I had in mind in terms of making an impressive return to the blog scene, but since it happens to have been the first time camera and kitchen have met since, well, Pizzaphilia, I suppose it will have to do.

Let me preface this by saying that I made a quite frankly disappointing batch of flapjacks this week, friends.

Disappointing flapjack…

They contained shredded coconut, ginger and dark chocolate. Which should be yummy in itself, and I don’t think it was this flavour combination that ruined these would-be treats. No, I blame the absence of taste and feelings of OMG-give-me-more before you even swallow your first bite that flapjacks usually nail, on the total lack of butter and sugar (I’m still afraid of these things, you know) in these babies. Flapjacks should be golden and sticky. This one looks, well, anaemic, soggy, sad, and it was nowhere near sweet enough.

I’ve been doing a TON of exercise to get this summer weight OFF me, Christ, I want to SCOOP OUT the contents of my disgusting sagging pot-belly but sadly, that’s not possible, so it’s off to kickboxing/gym/circuit training for me until I have sufficiently reduced in size. Oh, and tomorrow I start swing dancing classes, which, along with melting some of this disgusting fat, should provide some hilarity as I am the least co-ordinated person ever; having kickboxing in the dance studio in which one wall is entirely mirror has well and truly confirmed this for me… sigh.

I recently returned from spending five days with the love of my life in Naples – the land of fat, carbs and alcohol. I ate the most delicious food on the planet and I left no stone unturned when it came to sampling the delights of Italian cuisine; let me tell you, the mozzarella is to DIE for; the gelato, the coffee and the red wine, utter perfection. I ate pizza upon pasta upon gnocchi upon ice-cream, upon more pizza and more ice-cream, drizzled with olive oil and washed down with countless espressi, cappuccini and bicchieri di vino rosso. Half-board at the hotel meant we were treated to a buffet breakfast every day of cornetti, little biscuits and pastries, even cake, for goodness’ sake, as well as the best scrambled eggs I think I have ever tasted. And with marinaras and margheritas for €3 a pop, well, we could afford to eat a pizza a day, and we did. I totally forgot what it was to even be aware of what I had eaten in a day, let alone count calories or worry about things like double-carbs or fat content.

But the sheer gluttony didn’t end there. When we got back it was our three-year anniversary as a couple, and the day saw us polish off burger and fries and iced coffee that for some reason had ice-cream in it at Brighton’s infamous American diner; a large chocolate milkshake tided us over to red wine, calamari, bread, and yet another pizza in the evening at our favourite Italian restaurant. Needless to say, this summer has left me feeling somewhat… squishy.

I have had enough junk to make up for all the sugar and fat and carbs that I have not allowed myself to eat over the course of the last few years, and should probably see me through the next lot of neuroses to come as a result of gaining I don’t know how much weight from the careless, foolish but oh-so-much-sinful-FUN of Summer 2012. (Well, my BMI said I could have done with gaining a few lbs but of course, that does nothing to comfort me. Oh well, roll on next week’s kickboxing session). The good news is, despite feeling incredibly anxious at the concept of actually having gained real proper mass, I feel wholly more relaxed around junk. It’s not going to kill me. And actually, I feel much happier and can exercise a lot harder when I eat. I know now where I’d rather be.

Anyway, here’s a healthy thing that I made tonight that shouldn’t be marred by the absence of butter and sugar (seriously, what was I thinking? Flapjacks should be made with these things or not at all). It all started with a carrot glut and a recipe for Jamaican Carrot Juice (more on that later). I call it, Carrot Flax-bread.

You see, when you make carrot juice (I freakin’ LOVE carrot juice), you end up with a lot of pulp. It takes like, ten carrots to get one tall glass of juice. Then you take the lid off your juicer and you’ve got the semi-dried out remains of ten carrots, and dumping it all in the bin just makes me feel like a huge wasteful cow.

So here’s what you do:

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees C.
Take the contents of your juicer after you’ve made your delicious carrot juice.
Scoop them into a bowl.
Add a few tablespoons of flaxseed, a teaspoon of cinnamon and half a teaspoon of ground ginger. Mix with a spoon.
Roll it together to form a ball with your hands. If it doesn’t stick, add more flax and keep stirring.
Flatten out mixture onto a baking tray lined with parchment.
Bake for 30 minutes or until crispy and sort of solid.

Eat as a snack, for breakfast, with soup, salad, with jam, peanut butter, hummus. Whatever. Gluten-free, protein-rich flat bread for you, courtesy of leftover carrots.

I think it would be equally nice as a savoury with a bit of minced garlic, a pinch of salt and pepper and lemon juice, maybe drizzle a bit of olive oil on top before you bake it to make it extra crispy. You could use it as a cheeky no-rise, lowest-of-the-low-carb gluten-free pizza base. Wow. Who knew carrot-pulp could be so versatile ?

Well, now you do.

Hope everybody had a wonderful summer.

See you at circuit training.

Amy x

Pizzaphilia

Hi.

Just stopping by to tell you about the pizza I made for dinner this evening.

I left all my exciting new flours in Brighton so this base is standard wholemeal flour, you can use the gluten-free one if you like.

From bottom to top:

Pizza base, pre-baked.
One avocado, whizzed up with garlic, salt, pepper and lemon juice.
Spinach, blanched.
Parmesan cheese.
Steamed butternut squash.
Sundried tomatoes.
Egg, poached or fried.
Rocket.

Warm toppings through in oven for about 10 minutes once the base is cooked.

Is there anything more satisfying, nutritious, diverse, delicious and quite frankly perfect than home-made pizza ?

You couldn’t find a more straightforward path to my heart.

Summer is here and the Squirrell family are having a barbecue tomorrow.

See you then x

Orange and Ginger Loaf: A Citrusy Tale

Posted on

“I made bread today ! Well, actually, it’s more of a cake – ”

“Every time you tell me you’ve made bread you say it’s actually more of a cake. Stop lying to yourself, you’re making cake !”

… was how the conversation went yesterday and I must admit, it is entirely true. It seems a common occurrence now that should I decide to make bread, some sort of sweetness ensues and I end up making a cake, and when I attempt to make what I think is going to be a sweet loaf, bread happens.

My reasons for referring to this as bread are as follows:

It contains no eggs.

It is baked in loaf form, in a loaf tin.

… eh, that’s about it.

In support of this concoction as a cake:

It contains a lot of brown sugar.

It was batter when I poured it in said loaf tin, not dough.

So what is this ? You decide. I am calling it a loaf. A tasty citrus loaf with ginger and cinnamon. Like banana bread, but with orange pulp. Why ? you ask. Well, let me tell you a story.

As a child/young adult, I never liked oranges. I’d drink orange juice and eat orange flavoured things, but would never eat a real orange. Recently – let’s say last year or thereabouts – I decided, for reasons that escape my memory now, to eat one. And it was an entirely delicious and refreshing experience ! I began to incorporate oranges into my daily life, cutting them into quarters, pressing each one eagerly to my mouth and chewing off every last bit of pith and flesh and slurping at the juices like a hungry and overzealous monkey.

(Just so you know I should be writing an essay about 20th century avant-garde performance art right now…)

I revelled in my new-found love of oranges for a few months until one fateful day, I think it was around this Easter, back at my parent’s house. I cut up my orange as usual and sat myself down in front of the television, a bowl in which to discard the skin placed on the arm of the sofa, unaware of what was to come. I lifted an orange segment to my face and was met with the most utterly tasteless, textureless, pithy disgusting mess I never thought my precious citrus fruit wonder capable of producing. I spat it right out, shocked that I could be so betrayed by my fruity friend. It was obscene. Denied my orangey treat, I threw the remains in the bin; I put it down to an unfortunate anomaly of nature, how queer. But the next time I ate an orange, the same thing happened ! And again, and again. A bad batch, perhaps ? Wait a few days or so for the supermarket to restock. But no. Ever since the initial incident, I have yet to sample an orange that I did not immediately spit into the bin. Not again ! Where have all the good oranges gone ? So I abstained from oranges for a period of time.

The other day, I thought it time to readdress my complex, and spent a whole £1.50 at the supermarket on 4 British Navel oranges. I ate one. It wasn’t perfect, but it sufficed. I ate the whole thing. The next day I ate a second one. Unnacceptable. One bite, then straight into the bin, I’ve been cheated again ! Left with two scheming and deceitful oranges I had no intention of eating on their own, I headed straight for the internet for some kind of baking punishment for the pair.

In the end I just used a vegan banana-bread recipe, with a few tweaks.

Here’s what you need:
1/3 cup butter or vegan spread
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 large oranges, juice, pulp and zest
2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 cup regular or soy milk
A teaspoon vanilla extract

Do this:

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C

Cream together the butter/margarine and the sugar

Sift in the flour and the baking powder

Add the orange zest, cinnamon and ginger and combine

Stir in the orange juice and soya milk, alternating a dash of each one at a time to ensure the mixture doesn’t become too runny, but you still want it quite gloopy. You might not need all the orange juice.

Pour into a greased loaf tin and bake for 40 – 45 minutes

Amy x

Vegan Baking Pt.1

It’s 4pm on a sunny April Saturday in Brighton and today I have achieved the following things:

1 cup of Earl Grey tea.
45 minutes of yoga/pilates workout
My first run since the marathon ! 25 minutes
1 multiseed bagel with peanut butter and a banana
1 load of washing in the machine
1 shower

…and one weird batch of dairy-free cupcake/scone/bread thingies.

I went into town yesterday and bought an array of culinary delights that will enable me to continue cooking and baking my favourite foods in a vegan-friendly manner, suffering the reproachful glares of the Infinity Foods staff for reasons I can only assume concern my lack of dreadlocks and hemp clothing… seriously, why are the people who work there so bloody miserable ?! It’s like you can never be hippie enough to get your groceries in Infinity Foods and thus must suffer the withering looks of people who will always have more difficult and complicated eco-friendly idealist lifestyles than you.

My wholefoods supermarket reputation may not have necessarily been helped along by my housemate’s incredibly loud remarks on vegan cheese (Tom: “So it’s cheese with no dairy ? Isn’t that just… plastic ?” Me: “Shh ! You can’t say that here, the hippies will get you !”) but nevertheless we march onward. I now have in my stocks some egg replacement powder, a block of dairy-free ‘mozzarella’, dairy-free ‘parmesan’, some vegan-friendly coriander/basil and mixed nut pesto and enough UHT soy milk to render the cow obsolete (sorry, cows). So before vegan pizza, vegan cheeseburgers and a variety of vegan pasta dishes occur, here is the first installment of my experimental dairy-free lifestyle (despite having milk, cheese and a salmon fillet still to use up before this whole thing becomes official on Monday)…

VEGAN CUPCAKES… ?

Except they don’t look much like cupcakes. More like scones.

Also I was so confused by the fact that the mixture formed a dough instead of a cake-mix that I got tired halfway through putting it in cupcake cases and just made a loaf.

If you are interested in baking this strange egg-less, butter-less, sugar-less bread-cake-thing, then follow these instructions, pilfered from Coconut Oil Cooking.

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C.

Combine:
3 cups plain flour (I just used an approx. 200ml tumbler, I could literally not be bothered with scales today)
1 tbsp baking soda
1 tsp salt

Then mix together:
1 cup honey (the original recipe called for sugar but I don’t have any)
1/2 cup coconut oil (soft but not liquid)
1 1/2 tsps of egg substitute powder
3/4 cup of hazelnut soy drink (I used this instead of regular soy milk)

Bake for 20 – 25 minutes, until lightly browned on top. Actually I had to bake the loaf for about 45 minutes and I played around with the temperature on both, moving it between 180 and 200. Also I went for run in between baking the scones and the loaf so had to turn the oven off, and when I got back I didn’t really give it a chance to reheat. I would suggest keeping an eye on them, I really have no idea.

I’ve actually yet to taste these, and until that happens I will be unsure of their destination – (vegan) cheese ? Jam ? Icing ? Or bin…

Watch this space to find out !

Amy x

A Watched Loaf

I’ve learned a few things this week.

One: standing with your face pressed eagerly against the oven while baking bread will do nothing to hurry the process.

Two: you can resist cookies. But why would you ?

Three: the world doesn’t end when you put your scales away. In fact, it actually gets a lot rosier.

So for starters; the carrot and walnut bread what I made:

Get: 150g plain flour
150g wholemeal bread flour
A teaspoon of salt
Two teaspoons of baking soda
150g grated carrot
A handful of chopped walnuts
300ml Greek yoghurt
125ml milk

Preheat the oven to 210 degrees Celsius.
Toast the walnuts by dry-frying them in a pan for about 3 minutes, then leave aside.
Sift and combine the dry ingredients, then mix in the carrots, walnuts, yoghurt and the milk.
The dough will be mega sticky, even after some considerable kneading which will result in glue-encrusted monster-fingers with which you will be able to touch nothing in your kitchen, including the tap that you need to turn on to remove said muck.
Roll into a ball onto a floured surface, slash top and bake on a baking tray for 30-45 minutes (the recipe said 30; I had to bake for 45. Go figure).

It’s really good.

Moving on. Earlier this week in a manner totally unlike my usual self, I made chewy chocolate chip cookies for the boyfriend as a sort of lame attempt at a both frugal and endearing Valentine’s Day gift. Because he likes cookies. And I’m poor.

I’m not going to bother putting up the recipe because it was full of entirely uninteresting, not to mention totally unhealthy ingredients and took little to no effort, poise or culinary subtlety to prepare. Not that it wasn’t fun. But the main reason I chose to blog this event was that throughout the process I was grappling with the two Amys that so dictate my constant food-related agonies. Disordered Amy was adamant; scolding: “This mixture is absolutely out of bounds. You saw how much butter/sugar/chocolate/refined flour went into it, it’s entirely out of the question.”

But sensible Amy just said, “What kind of a sad life are you living?”

So I licked the bowl. And the spoon. And when the cookies were ready (at about 11pm that night) I shared the biggest one with Gaz.

I waited for the panic to set in. Because eating junk isn’t the stressful thing. It’s the anticipation, and subsequent experiencing of the massive, overwhelming food guilt which often results in running until I feel sick/my stomach feels empty again and always, ultimately, my old familiar friend, self-loathing. I felt strangely serene; like Food Guilt was looming but was being held back by something that I can only imagine was a combination of the fact that I knew I had to run 14 miles later that week, and that it was Valentine’s Day – I’d gone to the effort of buying and making the cookies; I had cava, we had plans to make pancakes in the morning and dinner reservations in the evening, and I really think it breaks Gaz’s heart a little bit when I leave him to indulge in treats on his own that should be shared by us as a couple. We used to pig out together all the time when we were younger and I miss it. So this time, thankfully, the ominous feeling never amounted to anything, and I ran the 14 training miles on Friday in 2:24:01, burning a total of 1167 calories – I mean, sometimes I eat that in a day ! I left the majority of the cookies to be consumed by Gaz and Tom, but I definitely had my fair share. And you know what ? That’s fucking fine.

Which leads me on to my third revelation of the week. I haven’t weighed myself one single time since last Sunday. And I’ve even forgotten what the scale then.

A watched loaf never bakes. And a watched scale never drops. So go and do something constructive. The oven will beep eventually, and whilst the scale may go up and down, knowing every inch of your body’s day to day mass fluctuations is not going to influence it in any way. The thing is, whether I am aware of it or not, my body is my body, my weight is just a number, water will be retained, glycogen will be stored and for the all the elation I feel when the number decreases there is always frustration and anger when for whatever reason it creeps up, but in the end, it should not define me. It means nothing.

Also bread is tasty.