Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Although I love cake...Wholemeal Spelt Loaf

I do try and eat cleanly. I try and make things from scratch, avoid refined/processed food and so on. Don't worry though I'm not completely fanatic about it. If I'm at a friends or out and about I just eat what I'm given. I just try and eat cleanly at home.

As it is that time of year when everyone is trying to compensate for the excesses of Christmas I thought I might blog about some of the healthy food I cook over the next couple of weeks. I know I normally write about baking and sweet things so sorry to anyone who doesn't want to hear about more healthy food!

Still keeping with the baking theme I will start by writing about a recipe for spelt bread. I am suspicious of the stuff in the supermarket that has a list of tons of ingredients and doesn't go off for the beat part of a week, so I make virtually all of my own bread.

This is the easiest bread recipe (well that needs kneading and rising anyway for an even easier one check out this sourdough bread) that I know of. It only has 4 ingredients and one of them is water! It also doesn't mind what flour you use, so pick your favourite. Here I'm using a Dove Farm wholemeal spelt. For anyone who doesn't know spelt is an old wheat flour which has far less gluten in than modern equivalents and therefore is easier to digest. It also has less of an impact on blood sugar levels. Still too much gluten for someone who is coeliac but a good option for someone just avoiding gluten.

If you have a bread maker it's even easier. Simply chuck all of the ingredients in and set it to the dough setting. Once it's risen give it a quick knead and put it into a greased 2 litre loaf tin and leave to rise again in a warm place for about an hour. Bake it in an oven pre-heated to 230C reducing the temperature to 210C as soon as to put it in. It will take about 40 mins to bake.

If you don't have a bread maker place the flour into a mixing bowl, make a well and add the yeast and salt. Pour some of the water into the well gradually incorporating the flour and adding more water as necessary. Once it is all incorporated tip it out onto a floured surface and knead well until it is smooth and silky. Leave in a warm place to rise for about 1 hour. Once it's risen give it a quick knead and put it into a greased 2 litre loaf tin and leave to rise again in a warm place for about an hour. Bake it in an oven pre-heated to 230C reducing the temperature to 210C as soon as to put it in. It will take about 40 mins to bake.


500g flour (if you can use bread flour)
7g dried yeast
1tsp salt
350g water

I'm not sure where I originally got the recipe, possibly from my mum.

Saturday, 21 January 2012

Raspberry Loaf Cake

I'm sure my Christmas list must have looked very odd to lots of people. Nearly all of it was food related in some way shape or form. I think it is now bordering on an obsession. Even people at work joke I work to fund my baking habit!

One of the things I asked for was some freeze dried raspberry powder. I have read about using it in macaroons or reconstituting it for drinks, coulis etc but I decided to try it in a cake.

I used a basic sponge recipe and simply added some of the freeze dried raspberry powder to give flavour and colour. Once baked I made some raspberry flavoured icing by adding the powder to icing sugar and enough water to make a pouring consistency. I then used a small sieve to remove any lumps and drizzled it all over the cake, allowing it to drip down the sides. I expected the colour to be a light pink colour but it was actually quite dark and almost purpley.

Next time I will whizz up the powder a bit more before using it as some of the pips were still whole. And as much as I don't like food colouring I might put a few drops in to change the colour.

It turns out its a fab way of getting the taste of raspberries without buying out of season.

In the background is a lemon drizzle cake which is one of my all time favourite quick recipes.

For the cake:
2 eggs weighed with the shell on
The same weight of self raising flour
The same weight of caster sugar
The same weight of margarine
A splash of milk
3tsp freeze dried raspberry powder

For the icing
Approx 3 tbsp icing sugar
3 tsp freeze dried raspberry powder
A little water

Pre-heat the oven to 190C
Incorporate all of the ingredients for the cake together
Pour into a lined 1 litre loaf tin
Bake for approx 25-30 mins depending on your oven.
Remove from the tin and place on a wire rack to cool

While it cools sift the icing sugar and raspberry powder into a bowl and slowly stir in enough water to make a dropping consistency.

Once the cake is cool drizzle the icing over the top of the cake allowing it to drip down the sides

Monday, 16 January 2012

Vegetable Thai Green Curry Soup

I love Thai green curry, especially a recipe I learnt when I was in Thailand (I really must write a post on it next time I make it) and at this time of year I eat soup for lunch most days. I had a small amount of coconut milk in the fridge so decided to combine the two and make a slightly more soupy vegetable curry.

I started by dicing the vegetables to a size easy to eat with a spoon, far smaller than I would for a true curry. I then heated the coconut milk with the water, added the green curry paste, ginger, fish sauce, sugar and soy followed by the veg and cooked until the veg were all fairly soft but still holding their shape. I finished by squeezing in lime juice and some sliced red chilli. You could also top with fresh coriander if you had some. I also normally add some torn kaffir leaves but forgot!

Here it is cooking in the pan


Makes two generous bowls of soup and is easily doubled/halved etc. You can also substitute the veg for whatever you have in the fridge that you think would be tasty

1/2 tin coconut milk
2-3 tablespoons of green Thai curry paste to taste
1 tsp fish sauce
1/2 tsp sugar (or natural sweetener)
2 tsp soy sauce
1/2 tbsp fresh ginger grated
1 courgette
1 red pepper
1 large carrot
2 onions
1/2 red chilli
Juice of 1/2 lime
3-4 torn kaffir leaves (if you remember!)
A bunch of torn coriander (if desired)

Dice all of the veg

Heat the coconut milk with the curry paste, ginger, fish sauce, ginger and sugar.

Add the veg and cook until it is soft but still holds its shape. Approx 20-30 mins

Add the lime and kaffir leaves. Serve topped with slices of red chilli and corriander

'Carrot Cake' Porridge

I love porridge and I love carrot cake so when I saw this rather unusual recipe from @porridgelady I had to give it a go. I know putting carrot in porridge sounds a bit strange but it takes fab in carrot cake so seemed worth a go! My version is a bit of an adaptation but was very yummy and relatively healthy.

I decided I wanted to make it all in one pan so I grated the carrot into a saucepan, added a splash of orange juice, the dried fruit and the spices (plus sugar if desired, leave out to keep it clean) and cooked for a few minutes until it started to soften. I then added jumbo porridge oats, a little bran and the water and the milk. I cooked slowly until the oats started to break down and it looked nice and creamy and served with a sprinkle of walnuts and soft dark brown sugar.


One carrot
A splash of orange juice
A mixture of spices I used cinnamon and nutmeg
A small handful of sultanas or your chosen dried fruit. I also added a little chopped crystallised ginger (use fresh to keep it clean).
A 1/2 cup of jumbo porridge oats
About half a tablespoon of bran if desired (it doesn't change the taste but increases the fibre)
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup milk (I use unsweetened almond)
Soft dark brown sugar (leave out to keep it clean or substitute with a natural sweetener)

1. Grate the carrot into a saucepan and add the orange juice, spices, dried fruit and sugar/sweetener to taste (if desired). Cook for a few
minutes until soft.
2. Add the oats, bran (if using), milk and water and cook on a low heat until the oats are starting to break down and the mixture is fairly thick and creamy.
3. Pour into a bowl and serve with a sprinkle of walnuts and soft dark brown sugar. If you're feeling particularly decedent a splash of single cream would go very well I'm sure.

Monday, 2 January 2012

Diana Henry's Vietnamese Chicken with Nuoc Cham

I have admired Diana Henry's simple but very tasty recipes in the Waitrose magazine, Waitrose Kitchen, for some time. When I saw the fantastic reviews her recipe books had on Amazon I had to put one on my Christmas list. I was lucky enough to find a copy of her book Food from Plenty under the Christmas tree.

Here is the first recipe I have tried from it. It is in the section which is a collection of recipes to use up left overs. This one is for left over roast chicken, which I had in the freezer from the last roast I made. I've made a few adaptations, some for choice and some through need, as I haven't been shopping in a while!

I started by making the nuoc cham which is a Vietnamese sauce which is hot, sour, salty and sweet in equal measure.

I then cooked the rice. She uses white rice but I prefer the taste of brown rice, plus it's healthier so I substituted this for brown rice (and slightly smaller quantities). It's cooked using the absorption method. Brown rice needs about 40 mins cooking time.

I also didn't have any spring onions so used some lightly stir fried cabbage and also added a few thinly sliced carrots. I also didn't have shallots so used onion instead and cooked them for a little longer than she suggested.

Finally it was a case of assembling the dish by mixing the chicken, rice and veg and topping with the onions and a sprinkling of nuoc cham and shredded mint leaves.

This really was a delicious way to use up leftover chicken and this dish is definitely a sum of more than its parts. The only thing I would do differently next time is to either reduce the amount of garlic or cook it a little first as for me the raw garlic flavour was slightly strong.


Serves 4

For the nuoc cham:
4 garlic cloves, crushed
1 red chilli, finely chopped
Pinch of salt
Juice of one lime
2 tbsp fish sauce
4tsp caster sugar

For the chicken and rice:
300g brown rice
600ml chicken stock
4 slices of fresh ginger root plus a little for grating
1 tbsp oil
1 onion thinly sliced
400g leftover roast chicken shredded
6 large cabbage leaves
2 carrots finely sliced
A handful of mint leaves, torn
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Start by making the nuoc cham by mixing all of the ingredients together in a small bowl. Set to one side

2. Put the rice, sliced ginger, seasoning and stock in a saucepan and bring to the boil. Put the lid on and reduce the heat and leave to simmer gently for about 40 mins. Do not stir but if the rice starts to stick add a little boiling water. Remove the ginger slices, add a little finely grated ginger and set aside with the lid on.

3. When the rice is almost cooked fry the onions in a little oil until golden and slightly caramelised. Set to one side.

4. Stir fry the carrots for a couple of minutes. Add the cabbage and the chicken and cook until heated through.

5. Stir the chicken and veg into the rice and share between 4 plates. Top each one with the onions and mint leaves. Serve with the nuoc cham.

Homemade Hot Chocolate

After coming back from a long walk on a winters day all I want is a hot steaming mug of something yummy, whether that is mulled wine, spices hot apple juice or a rich hot chocolate depends on my mood (and if I am planning on driving later that day!).

I've been meaning to try this hot chocolate recipe for a while. It's one of Jamie Oliver's that I saw on his Christmas programme. As I've mentioned before I like to try to avoid processed food where possible and although this has some horlicks in it still has less nasties than some shop bought hot chocolate. It also isn't as decedent as it first seems. Don't quote me on it but at a rough calculation a mug made with 250ml skimmed milk contains just under than 200 calories which is far less than a Starbucks tall skinny signature hot chocolate, cheaper and nicer!

Start by taking a large jar or tin and place it in 4 heaped tablespoons of good quality sieved cocoa (I used Green and Blacks), 2 heaped tablespoons of horlicks malt powder, 3 heaped tablespoons of sieved icing sugar, 2 heaped tablespoons of sieved cornflour, a pinch of salt, a pinch of cinnamon and 100g of finely grated good quality chocolate (at least 70% cocoa). Put the lid on the jar and shake well to fully combine the ingredients.

Place one mug of milk per person in a saucepan and bring to a simmer. Whisk in 4-5 teaspoon of the powder and simmer for a few minutes until it thickens slightly. Serve in mugs topped with a few marshmallows, whipped cream or a cheeky shot of your favourite liqueur if desired.

This would also make a lovely present perhaps with a pretty mug, a gift bag full of marshmallows tied with a pretty ribbon or a miniature of liqueur.

Recipe from Jamie Oliver