Beer Bread

Perfect with a pot of tea.
Perfect with a pot of tea.

Introducing beer and bread.

Bread making looks like such a lot of work and this always puts me off making my own. Don’t get me wrong, I love cooking but not only is there already a huge variety of bread pre-made, packaged and all set for my trolley but there’s always something I’d rather make more than a loaf.  So I’ve never actually made bread and this needs to change  for several reasons. Here are three of them: 1)We all know the shop bought stuff is full of unnecessary additives. 2) I’ve heard bread making is therapeutic, who doesn’t want free therapy? 3)I just want to get good at bread!

I’m starting basic though. I thought I’d give beer bread a shot as it’s one of the few breads I can’t  find in the supermarket. Also, this beer loaf is not like those other bread recipes. No kneading, no resting and no yeast involved. How divinely simple. Sometimes you just don’t want complicated and time consuming but rather, easy and quick. Isn’t everything already complicated enough?

Easiest recipe ever, no concentration needed.

There are lots of beer bread recipes out there and most use three basic ingredients but I decided to wing it a little and came up with this. It turned out pretty good and is delicious with savoury and sweet things. Using wholemeal flour not only increases the fibre content but adds a nutty flavour too (I don’t much like white bread anyway). I brushed the top of the loaf with butter and topped with seeds mid way through cooking for added crunch and protein.  Oh, and of course I used a bottle of strong beer. I love beer and I love bread so I’m wondering why it’s taken me so long to make this easy peasy loaf!

Enjoy slathered in butter, jam or honey with a hot cup of tea.  Alternatively, serve as an accompaniment to a hearty soup.

Bread and jam collage

Now I’ve got the bread making bug. Next time I might get involved with yeast and kneading.

Beer Bread

(makes 12 slices)

375 grams wholemeal self raising flour
2 tablespoons of sugar
1/2 teaspoon of salt
330 ml of BEER (I used IPA extra strength)
1/4 cup of seeds (optional but recommended!)
butter & extra seeds for coating 10 minutes before the end.

  1. Place the flour, sugar & salt in a mixing bowl and stir through the beer until well combined. If using add the seeds at this point.
  2. Transfer the mixture to a greased loaf tin and bake on 180 º C for 50 minutes. If desired remove from the oven 10 minutes before the end and brush lightly with melted butter and top with extra seeds.
  3. Remove from the oven and transfer to a wire rack to cool.

 

Raspberry Bomb Coconut Muffins

These are the bomb!
These are the bomb!

A coconut thing.

My love of coconut is way out of control, I slip some of this exotic fruit into most meals! Whole coconuts, flaked coconut, desiccated coconut, creamed coconut, coconut milk, coconut oil, coconut butter….coconut anything! Anyway, I needed something yummy to brighten this seriously dull Sunday. It’s ‘British summertime’ and the sun has disappeared with a sky so grey that there is no sky. *Sigh. Hence a need for some kitchen therapy and some yummy goodness in my life. Plus, I need some snackage for the work week ahead. I found these muffins on All Recipes which I tweaked to create a sugar free lower glycemic muffin. I managed to incorporate coconut in three forms: milk, oil and desiccated. Bonus!

Totally inspired by all the silly best of both/half and half bread products out there, I made these 50% whole wheat  and 50% white (well it’s OK if it’s cake but come on just get with the wholegrain bread and be a man!). So, enter the ‘best of both’ sugar free (splendid stevia), raspberry (I used St Dalfours French Jam as it’s sweetened naturally with grape juice) bomb coconut muffins.

Raspberry bomb muffinsUmmmmmmmmmm. My Mum’s two favourite things happen to be coconut and raspberries so I’m going to drop some round this afternoon because I’m nice like that!

Raspberry Bomb Coconut Muffins

(makes 12)

125g plain flour
125g whole wheat flour
175g stevia
3 handfuls desiccated coconut
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1 egg
90ml coconut oil
200ml Koko (coconut) milk
1/2 jar good quality raspberry jam

Method:

1. Preheat the oven to 190 ºC. Line a muffin tin with twelve cases.
2. Put all the dry ingredients into a large bowl.
3. In another bowl, lightly beat together the egg, oil and milk.
4. Mix the wet and dry ingredients together. The mixture should be fairly thick.
5. Put 1 1/2 dessertspoons of mixture into each of the cases. Then put half a teaspoon of the jam onto the mixture. Add another dessertspoon of mixture to cover the jam.
6. Sprinkle each with a little more coconut.
7. Bake for 20 – 25 minutes or until the muffins are a lovely golden brown colour.

Allow to cool completely & enjoy with a cuppa.

Spiced Carrot Muffins

Carrot spiced muffin

Do you randomly reminisce about mediocre food you were fond of as a younger you? I do, all the time but come to think of it, I think about any food, all of the time! Of late it’s been the ginger biscuits I made as a kiddo, usually when I was bored or avoiding homework. They were nice but I wonder, were they really that good? I’ve been thinking maybe it’s the nostalgia that makes food seem more appealing than it perhaps was?! In their defence, these ginger biscuits were pretty popular though, my family loved them for a good tea dunking. It’s just that there really wasn’t anything special about them, they were just biscuits. But they were the first biscuit recipe I nailed and gosh was I proud! See, it’s nostalgia. They were bursting with immense gingery goodness, probably because I usually doubled the suggested 1 teaspoon to 2, well 2 1/2 actually!

Anyway, I’ve been meaning to make some gingery baked goods for a while now. I just love ginger with it’s warm, rich, spicy yet sweet flavour provoking memories of a gloriously sticky ginger pudding smothered in creamy pale yellow custard. Even a fiery Thai or Chinese stir fry packed full of ginger just makes you feel warm and comforted. Yes, I think there’s something comforting about ginger and I love that it’s good for us too. In India, ginger is viewed as a complete wonder spice and this is good enough for me (being a huge fan of all things Indian).

I used an overly-heaped teaspoon in the muffin mix because I just love the flavour and it works fantastically with the pineapple, carrot and raisins. In hindsight, these could even take some more – so if you like ginger go for 1 1/2 to 2 teaspoons. Definitely a match made in heaven. I’m thinking of making oatmeal with these flavours, kind of like an exotic carrot cake breakfast. I used honey and crushed pineapple to sweeten and to ensure it retained as much moisture as possible, plus I wanted to replicate the moist and sticky ginger puddings I loved so much as a kid.

Step by step

Alongside ginger I used a teaspoon of cinnamon,  another spice I am completely obsessed with. I use  both these exotic spices most days, even just a sprinkle on cereal, toast or porridge. A few years back in the middle of some hefty marathon training  I read that cinnamon is amazing for blood sugar regulation. Obviously, eager to gain a winning edge I started stirring heaps into my breakfasts, popping it into smoothies, sprinkling on honey toast, whisking through pancake batter and adding generously to my curries, North African dishes, well anything really. I swear this carried me through the long hard training and not once did I ‘hit the wall’ as they say in running jabber. Purely psychological? Maybe, but there’s something in it, quite literally. Whenever I google ‘cinnamon benefits’ it never ceases to amaze me (same for ginger) how healing these can be! I’m pretty mindful about generous health claims but the taste, aroma and colour of these spices just make you feel like you’re doing your body a favour.

These muffins are super blood sugar regulators and high in fibre too.  Full of wonderful flavour and texture, these muffins are an acceptable breakfast snack and even a worthy pudding contender – with a scoop of ice cream or  a dollop of custard. Are you sold yet?

Carrot spiced muffin
Sticky, sweet, spiced & fruity

What was the first recipe you mastered as a kid (or adult for that matter!)?

Spiced Carrot Muffins

(makes 10-12)

1 1/2 cups of wholemeal self raising flour
1 teaspoon of ginger
1 teaspoon ginger
1 teaspoon of baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup sugar
small handful of crushed walnuts
small handful of raisins
2 tablespoons of honey
1 cup of shredded carrot
1 cup of crushed pineapple
1/2 cup canola oil
1 egg

Method:

  1. Sift all the dry ingredients together and combine well. Add the walnuts, raisins and carrot.
  2. Combine the wet ingredients and mix just enough to fully combine.
  3. Place in 10-12 muffin cases and sprinkle with oats.
  4. Bake at 175 ºC for 25 minutes.

Bake for 25 minutes at 175 °C.

Banana Spelt Bread Loaf

Better than cake!
Better than cake?

Having your cake and cheating it!

Bursting with fibre, B vitamins, potassium and low GI to boot but this banana bread could be cake it’s so good! Adding nut butter gives this a protein kick also, making it ideal for a hurried breakfast.

I’ve never eaten banana bread before! Well I have now……well actually I’ve eaten half a loaf so far and I’ll definitely be baking and eating this bread much more in the future. It’s delicious, healthy and so easy – winner!

Hands off- these are reserved for banana bread!
Hands off, reserved for banana bread!

It’s best to use really ripe bananas so this is great if you’re trying to use up old battered ones.

I stumbled across the recipe on The Healthy Foodie blog with a claim that this loaf is the best banana bread EVER. Well if I’m going to try this for the first time what better recipe to choose than the tastiest banana bread EVER!

But I can’t say whether this is the best banana bread in the world because it’s the only banana bread I’ve tried. It’s a great place to start though! Well actually it’s a gloriously tasty place to start, so tasty I doubt I’ll even try another!

I adore bread and love bananas and this loaf fools me into thinking I’m eating cake but in actual fact there’s no sugar or bad fat involved. Bonus.

A piece of cake!
A piece of cake!

Have a great day.

Banana Spelt Bread

(makes 12 slices)

Dry Ingredients:
1 cup spelt flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1 heaped teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup walnuts
1/4 cup raisins

Wet ingredients:
2 medium bananas
1 egg, beaten
1 cup buttermilk
1 vanilla pod, deseeded
coconut, to sprinkle on top

Method:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 175 ºC. Combine all dry ingredients in a small bowl.
  2. Mash bananas in a larger bowl, add the egg, buttermilk, vanilla.
  3. Use a spatula to combine wet and dry ingredients fully without over stirring.
  4. Transfer mixture to a greased loaf tin. Sprinkle with coconut and place in the centre of the oven for 1 hour or just under.  Use a toothpick to check if it’s cooked through.

Smokey Bean Burger

I like a good eye crossing burger (don’t worry, i’ll explain later) and as a vegan, burger making prowess is a handy skill to possess. Burgers mean a lot to me and as such I’ve made a lot of veggie burgers and I am still by no means ‘there’ yet, but I really like this one.

smokey bean burger

So, the first and most key burger rule I have learnt on my 8 year burger learning curve is that the mixture consistency is sooooooo very important, and to get the correct consistency you need to experiment! Soft and mushy is just annoying but at the same time you really don’t want to break a tooth at first bite. I usually have the former problem. My first veggie bean burger was a big floppy sloppy mess and despite tasting pretty good it was a mission to eat! If I remember correctly we also ‘spilt’ too much chill into the mix, so really it was more super hot vegetarian chill in a bun than burger- uuuuummmm yummy. Potential future recipe perhaps?

There are a mass of bean burger recipes around but as long as you take care of the main elements such as mixture consistency, texture and size I think the actual ingredients boil down to personal tastes. The smokey chipotle and raw cocoa provide a rich, lightly spiced and sweet tone throughout the burger but this can be adjusted to personal taste. The oats and almonds add a slight nutty crunch and firmness without drying the mixture out and once combined with the smoothness of the beans a workable consistency forms. It’s really important to drain the beans thoroughly as they are pretty water retentive.! If you find mid way through combining that it is a little sloppy you can add more wholemeal flour or oats to dry it out. It really is one of those recipes that require a bit of judgement and experimentation.

smokey bean burger
ready to go!

Best to use a high burning oil such as rape seed to achieve that crunchy exterior. I usually give them 5-6 minutes each side but keep an eye on them anyhow!

I divided this mixture into 4 good sized burgers and shape into…..well burger shapes! If using cheese slice, place on the burger 1 minute before removing from the hob.

smokey bean burger
It’s all in the consistency………

Obviously, serve with a decent bun, I top it with cheese, some pickles, crunchy salad and tomato ketchup 🙂 I really like a few nachos in the burger for added crunch!

smokey bean burger
Amazing with mustard coleslaw

My favourite part is picking it up, squeezing it together and taking an almighty bite whilst trying my hardest not to go cross eyed! I still can’t do it, ever since I was a kid my eyes start wondering inwards towards my nose when tackling an oversized burger, much to the amusement of my family!

So, if there were a veggie burger making rulebook what would you add to it?!

Smokey Bean Burger

(makes 4 burgers)

1 can of black beans, drained very well
2 tablespoon of vegetable oil
1/2 onion, peeled & chopped
1 clove of garlic, minced
1 large carrot or squash, peeled and chopped
1 chipotle chili, chopped
1/4 cup of almonds
small handful of cacao nibs or grated dark chocolate
1 cup of oats
coriander/cumin/cinnamon/smoked paprika
salt / pepper
flour to dust
oil for frying

Note: Most pulses work well but all need to be thoroughly drained.

Method:

  1. Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a non-stick pan and soften onion, garlic and chopped carrot. Meanwhile drain the beans thoroughly.
  2. Add 2/3 beans to a mixing bowl followed by the onion mix, chill, almonds, oats, spices, salt & pepper. Blitz mixture in a blender.
  3. Stir through remaining beans and cocoa nibs and partially blitz. Now is the time to add any peas/sweetcorn.
  4. Divide mixture into 4 equal portions. Shape into buns and dust with flour.
  5. Use remaining oil to fry the burgers for 5-6 minutes on both sides.
  6. Top with sliced (dairy-free) cheese if desired and serve immediately in a grainy bun.

Healthy Moroccan Chickpea Stew

tagine collage
I am in love with Moroccan cuisine. In fact I love everything about Morocco from my favourite leather handbag, to the vibrant throw that adorns my sofa to the ceramic bowls I fill with salsas and sauces. See, I like this country a lot!  Did I mention there’s something special about the food too?

Culinary discoveries are one of the highlights of travel and when visiting Morocco several years back I was overwhelmed by the colours, aromas, tastes and general sensory attack from the exotic, sweet, delicate but sometimes pungent flavours that filled the air in markets and cafes. Morocco is a country that overloads the senses. I spent days wondering the bustling medinas mesmerised by daily life, spending hours mingling in markets, squeezing pass tables of mountainous of red, yellow, brown and orange spices, and others close to toppling with juicy plump olives. I found myself lost in huge markets, wondering sprawling alleyways overspilling with fresh vibrant produce. I took the time to learn about these new foods and spices whilst loitering to observe the daily hustle and bustle of daily life. I took great pleasure in the bread section watching locals toss balls of soft flexible dough ready for the oven. Once charred these unbelievable pitta breads were served with my favourite fruity, spicy but delicate fresh tagines.

knife, board, chop!
Knife, board, chop!

In Morocco tagines were usually served with a side of salad, olives and as much fresh pitta as I could eat (dangerous!). It really was the most colourful, tasty and satisfying meal, perfect after hours of idling and bartering for leathers and silks.. I ate tagines most days and decided that I wanted to start making Moroccan food myself on my return home.

Once back in the UK I was keen to put my newly purchased spices and amazing culinary experiences to good use and began experimenting. I wasn’t looking for 100% authenticity but rather a dish to remind me of Morocco and my memorable experiences. This is pretty much a one-pot wonder and doesn’t the authentic tagine dish.  Over the years I’ve played around with the spices and order of vegetables into the pan as sweet potato cooks much quicker than carrot, however when the potato does break down it adds a lovely thick consistency and smooth sweetness to the whole stew. Parsnips seem to hold their own as does squash so I don’t worry too much when keeping it simmering on the hob. It really doesn’t matter and that’s why I love this dish because it never seems to go wrong….well not yet anyhow! It’s all about personal tastes.

I like adding peas towards the end for the pretty contrast it creates against the warm orangey/yellow and red tones. Chickpeas go in last to avoid them hardening too much….nobody likes bulletesque chick peas!

Delicious served with a mint yoghurt dip, a crisp green salad and warm baguette. This is my heaven. Where is your favourite country in terms of cuisine?

Moroccan Chickpea Stew

(serves 2)

1 onion, peeled & chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced
thumb sized ginger, chopped finely
salt & pepper
1 carrot, peeled & chopped
1 cup of squash, peeled & cubed
1 parsnip, peeled & chopped
10 apricots, chopped
1 medium sized sweet potato, peeled & chopped
1 teaspoon of cumin & cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon of turmeric &  paprika
1 tin of tomatoes & 1 tin of water
juice and zest of 1/2 an Orange
generous pouring of peas
1 tin of chickpeas, drained
small handful of coriander, chopped

Method:

  1. Add the oil to the pan and soften the onion, garlic and ginger. Season with salt and pepper.
  2. Add the carrot, parsnip, squash and continue softening for 5 minutes. Add the apricots, sweet potato, spices, tomatoes, water, orange juice and zest and simmer for 30-40 minutes.
  3. Stir through the peas, chickpeas and coriander and heat through thoroughly.

Pick ‘n’ Mix Bubble & Squeak

Don’t you just love leftovers? Cold pizza, cheesy pasta, pesto pasta, tomato pasta, lasagne (any pasta!), curries that somehow taste better the next day, roasted veg stuffed into wraps, cold oats and even stodgy cold pies.  In fact I quite like cold food generally and I certainly hate piping hot food; like the kind of food that destroys the roof of your mouth! You know that that horrid realisation that yep you just did it, that cheese pizza you’ve chomped down on has just scorched your palate and now you have no palate because everything you eat for the next 2 days will taste of nothing! So cold food is fine with me but we were talking about leftovers weren’t we?

yes, this really is made from leftovers!
Yes, this really is made from leftovers!

Bubble and squeak is the perfect next day recipe to use your leftover vegetables. I love this so much that sometimes I boil up veggies especially but it tends to work best with veggies straight from the fridge.

lovely leftovers
Breakfast, lunch or dinner?

Traditionally potato, carrots and something green such as cabbage or sprouts make up a bubble ‘n’ squeak. I adore sprouts (yep you heard right!) so use them lots but any green vegetable or potato will work. Other great options are swede, kale, collards, parsnip – you get the picture and i’m sure you don’t need a lesson in vegetables. Adding peas, sweetcorn or a cheeky sprinkle of crushed chill all add to the aesthetic appeal!

So pick ‘n’ mix your leftover veggies and add to fried onion in a non stick pan. Push the mixture down with a spatula and crisp on one side. The hardest part is turning the cake over but you can cheat by brushing the top with oil and grilling! Or failing that, don’t fill the whole pan but make mini bubble and squeaks.

Serve hot, not cold and definitely not piping hot! I love this with a couple of eggs or some mature cheese and always copious amounts of ketchup.

Bubble & Squeak

(serves 2)

1 onion chopped
2 tablespoons of oil
bowlful of mashed potato
bowlful of leftover vegetables (pick ‘n’ mix but carrot and cabbage work great)
salt & pepper
Optional: Chilli & Cheese

Method:

  1. Heat the vegetable oil in a non stick pan and soften the onion. Meanwhile add the leftover veggies, season and work together to combine.
  2. Squash the mixture down with a spatula and brown/crisp on one side.
  3. Turn the mixture over and crisp on the second side. You can use a chopping board to turn the pan onto or grill the top. Add cheese if you wish to.
  4. Divide into desired portions and serve immediately.

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