Sourdough Bread – how I make it

I have been making my own sourdough bread for almost 3 years now and it really makes ordinary bread seem quite inferior. This loaf below was the very first loaf I made:

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Over these past few years, I have had dozens of requests for my sourdough recipe, so here it is. There are plenty of sourdough recipes out there and confusing as to where to start as the world of sourdough can be a bit daunting, but why not take this time of isolation to do something that is a little time consuming and make your own delicious creations. The whole process takes about a day and a half but the actual hands on time is very limited.

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Making sourdough had always been on my to do list, but I didn’t know where to start, how to make a starter, would it work, would it not. This was all until one of my clients gave me some of her starter and I had no choice, I had to keep it alive, so I did. I fed it and I used it and I fed it some more and it is still going strong. Making your own starter will take about 1 week and here is a straight forward way to make your own starter with some helpful pics to guide you.

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Sourdough is a science. You will need a set of kitchen scales as you will find that all the recipes use grams of water, which is not commonly seen when cooking, but don’t be tempted to guess or use millilitres. The proportion of water to flour is important, especially when making and feeding your starter. It needs to be the same. The pictures below are of a starter that has just been fed (top two) and one that has been fed and allowed to become active over a few hours (bottom two). Note the bubbles in the active starter, this indicates that the starter is ready to be used.IMG_8583IMG_8584IMG_85825r90j

 

Feeding and storing your starter:

If you are baking loaves regularly, keep your starter at room temperature and feed it daily by adding equal parts flour and water. I usually add 15g of each. Once it is bubbling nicely it is ready to be used. Another way to test its readiness is to place a small spoonful into a glass of water and if it floats, you’re good to go.

You only need to keep about 1/4 cup of starter at any one time unless you are planning on making multiple loaves at once. Sourdough bakeries will keep litres on hand but this is not at all needed for the home baker. If you are storing your starter at room temperature and feeding regularly, you will need to discard some starter each time you feed it, unless you are baking a loaf. Discarding half will be adequate.

If you only bake one loaf per week, you can store your starter in the fridge in a glass jar. It will then need the time to warm back to room temperature and be fed before using it and then fed again before placing back into the fridge. You may find if you store the starter the fridge that after a few days a vinegary smelling liquid forms on top. This is normal, just pour this off and feed the starter again.

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Over the years I have made an array of loaves, including, wholegrain, wholemeal spelt, fig and walnut, fruit sourdough, olive sourdough, but my regular go to is a wholemeal loaf, detailed below.

Enjoy xx.

Pre-ferment/Levain

  • 50g wholemeal flour
  • 50g water
  • 30g starter that has been recently fed and is active (bubbly)

Place all ingredients in a large bowl and mix well to combine, cover and allow to sit at room temperature for 8+ hours. The picture below is what the levain should look like after 8 hours, smooth, sticky and starting to bubble.

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Bulk Ferment

  • 300g wholemeal flour
  • 200g white baker’s flour
  • 375g water
  • 15g salt
  1. Add all ingredients to the levain, which has been sitting for at least 8 hours and is now starting to bubble. Mix well, cover and leave to sit for 1 hour.
  2. After one hour, use a wet hand to loosen the dough from the bowl and grab the right side of the dough and fold it into the middle, then fold the left side into the middle, the top side into the middle and the bottom side into the middle. Lift the whole loaf and flip it over. Cover the bowl and leave to sit for another 2 hours. To see a video of how this fold it to be carried out, there is a video with the whole sourdough process on my instagram account @whatspruecooking.
  3. Over the next 2 hours, every 30 minutes, repeat the same fold.

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Shaping the dough

  1. After 2 hours, scoop the dough from the bowl and place onto a lightly floured surface. Grab one side of the dough and fold it into the middle, work your way around the dough until you have formed a rough ball then flip the loaf over.
  2. With floured hands, cup the dough where it meets the bench and turn the loaf to form a nice ball shape. The dough may start to slightly stick to the bench here, this is ok as the aim is to create some surface tension, which is essential to shaping the dough.
  3. Place the bowl upside down over the shaped loaf and leave to rest for 30 minutes.
  4. While the dough is resting, prepare your brotformen (sourdough proving basket – see picture below) by sprinkling it with plenty of flour, getting into all the grooves. If you don’t have a brotformen, line a medium sized bowl with a tea towel and sprinkle and rub at least 1/4 cup of flour into it.IMG_00C2FDE24295-1
  5. To carry out the final shaping, flour your hands, scoop the dough and flip it back over. Repeat the same fold as in step 4 and 5, except when you are turning the loaf to form the ball make sure there is not too much flour where you are working as the formation of surface tension is essential for keeping the shape of the dough and sealing it.
  6. Once you have formed a nice tight ball, invert the dough into the prepared proving basket (ie. the side of the dough that was on the bench when you are forming the ball is now facing up).
  7. Cover the dough with cling wrap and place in the fridge overnight or for at least 6-8 hours.

Baking the dough

  1. Remove the dough from the fridge and allow it to come to room temperature, 30-45 minutes.
  2. Place a large crockpot, with a lid, that will fit your loaf in it into the oven and heat the oven to 240°C.
  3. Flip the dough out of the proving basket and onto a piece of baking paper. The top of the dough should be covered with flour from the proving basket. Using a sharp knife, score the top of the dough. This will allow the steam to escape and for the loaf to rise. Without scoring the dough, the loaf will blow out the side while baking. The score can be 2 lines down the centre of the loaf, a square or a criss cross pattern – there’s no wrong or right.
  4. Carefully remove the crockpot from the oven and take the lid off. Lift and lower the dough and baking paper into the pot and replace the lid. Return the pot to the oven and bake for 25-30 minutes.
  5. After 25-30 minutes, remove the lid from the crockpot and if the loaf has risen nicely then return to the oven, without the lid, lower the oven temperature to 220°C and bake for a further 10-15 minutes or until the loaf has a nice golden brown colour. If the loaf has not yet risen, return the lid to the pot and cook for a further 5 minutes before removing the lid.
  6. Once cooked, remove from the oven and allow to cool for at least 1 hour before slice, if you can resist it. The loaf should sound hollow when tapped.
  7. Enjoy with a generous slather of butter!IMG_2819

Timeline for baking a loaf:

To bake a loaf on Saturday:

  • Thursday night – take your starter out of the fridge and feed it.
  • Friday morning – Make your pre-ferment or levain and leave to sit for 8+ hours.
  • Friday afternoon/evening – Do your bulk ferment, folding the loaf every 30-40 minutes for 3 hours.
  • Friday night – Place the loaf into a proving basket/tea towel lined bowl and allow to prove in the refrigerator overnight.
  • Saturday morning – remove the loaf from the fridge and allow 45 minutes for it to come to room temperature and bake the loaf.

When I am making my sourdough loaves, I will usually do the bulk ferment between 6-9pm. This has often resulted in me giving the loaves a couple of folds and then once the kids are in bed, sitting on the couch with a cup of tea or glass of wine or folding the washing and then 2 hours later realising I haven’t folded it again. In these instances, the bread has still worked and is still tasty but isn’t as amazing as one that has been given all the TLC a loaf of sourdough needs.

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Slow Roasted Tomato Bruschetta

What a crazy time it is that we are all living in….Coronavirus, halting our lives, forcing us to stay home and slow down. An inconvenience or a blessing in disguise?img_5773-e1496487456421

We have been self-isolating for two weeks now, leaving the house to go to the shops, to exercise or go to work. The kids haven’t ventured out of our suburb in two weeks and were actually shocked when I bought home some Easter eggs from the supermarket the other day as they haven’t come shopping with me since before all the easter stock was front and centre!IMG_7766

With a little more time on our hands, I’ve been trying to think up recipes that I can share that are delicious and suitable for working from home lunches or dinners, which don’t take too long to prepare, yet are not suitable for taking to work. This slow roasted tomato bruschetta is exactly that. It requires about 5-10 minutes hands on time, yet requires time in the oven to roast – perfect to be put on mid morning and roast away while you get back to work.

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Our garden has been producing tomatoes in abundance over the past 6 or so weeks. Elise loves to eat the cherry tomatoes as they are and I have been making Passata with the larger ones, but we are still over flowing with cherry tomatoes, so this is a great dish to use up a chunk of tomatoes if you have an excess. We’ve had it a couple of times now and it is really makes a traditional bruschetta look quite inferior. The kids have enjoyed it too.

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Hope you’re all surviving this weird and wonderful time. Remember to sit back and embrace the extra time you have as it won’t last forever.

Enjoy xx

Ingredients:

Makes 4 slices

  • 400g cherry tomatoes, some halved
  • 2 sprigs of thyme, leaves removed
  • Zest of 1/2 a lemon, coarsely grated
  • 1 tbs extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tbs balsamic vinegar
  • Salt and pepper
  • 4 slices of sourdough bread
  • 1 large handful of basil leaves
  • Feta, to serve

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 140°C and line a baking tray with baking paper.
  2. Place the tomatoes into a bowl and add the thyme, lemon zest, oil, balsamic vinegar and a good grind of salt and pepper. Mix to combine.
  3. Place onto baking tray and slow roast for 45-50 minutes.
  4. Once roasted, remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly.
  5. Toast the bread and drizzle with olive oil. Top each slice with 1/4 of the tomato mixture. Top with some torn basil leaves and crumbled feta.
  6. Serve as is or with a poached egg.

Roast Carrot and Lentil Salad

I made this salad on New Year’s Eve as a bit of a ‘throw together’ type salad and the feedback was exceptional. Everyone raved about it, so I thought it best that I write it up, which is always challenging when the original recipe was made up and not documented. So, last week, I made the salad again from what I could remember and here it is…

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Lentils make a great base for a more substantial salad. They are great source of both protein and carbohydrate, as well as providing a good amount of fibre and B vitamins. Lentils and other legumes should be included more regularly in most people’s diets, and are particularly important for those who choose to follow a vegetarian or vegan diet due to their iron, zinc and protein content, nutrients that are often lacking in a vegetarian or vegan diet.IMG_7974

Lentils are often overlooked as people aren’t always sure how to incorporate them into meals, however, regular consumption of pulses (at least 3 times per week) has actually been shown to decrease the risk of developing certain cancers, particularly, colorectal cancer, due to their high soluble fibre content, which helps to keep the bowels healthy and moving well. Salads, such as this one is a great use for lentils. Other ideas include adding some lentils into a bolognese sauce, making lentil burgers, or adding them to a curry or a stew. There are so many ways to include them regularly into the diet.

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The roasted chickpeas add a great crunch to this salad and really break up the texture of the lentils and roast vegetables well. The honey and cumin roasted carrot and pumpkin provide a sweetness and spice, which are complemented by the sweetness of the grapes. If you can’t get red grapes, pomegranate would make a good substitute.

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The components of this salad can all be prepared in advance and then assembled just before serving.

Enjoy xx

Ingredients:

  • 8 Dutch carrots, cut into 3cm pieces
  • 2 cups pumpkin, diced into 1-2cm cubes
  • 2 x 1 tbs extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tbs honey
  • 1 tsp cumin, ground
  • 1 cup du Puy lentils
  • 400g chickpeas, roasted
  • 1/2 red onion, finely diced
  • 1 1/2 cups red grapes, halved
  • 1/2 cup of each coriander, mint and parsley, chopped
  • 1/4 cup pinenuts, toasted
  • 1/4 cup pumpkin seeds, toasted

Dressing:

  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 tsp honey

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 160°C and line 2 baking trays with baking paper.
  2. Place chopped carrots and pumpkin into a bowl and add olive oil, honey and ground cumin. Toss to coat the vegetables then place onto one baking tray and cook for ~40-50 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from the oven when cooked.
  3. Drain and rinse the chickpeas and dry well with paper towel or a tea towel. Place in a bowl and drizzle with 1 tbs of olive oil and season with salt a pepper. Place onto the second baking tray and bake for ~45-50 minutes or until dry and crunchy. Remove from the oven when cooked.
  4. While the vegetables are roasting, cook the lentils. Rinse the lentils and drain then add 1 1/2 cups of water. Heat on the stove top and bring to the boil, once boiling, reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 30 minutes, until lentils are tender. Drain and rinse the lentils and allow to cool slightly.
  5. Place the lentils into a large bowl, along with the red onion and the herbs, reserving ~ 1 tbs of herbs for serving, then prepare the dressing by placing all ingredients in a small bowl or jar and mix/shake well to combine. Pour the dressing over the lentils and mix well to combine.
  6. Add the roast vegetables and grapes and gently toss to combine.
  7. Toast the pine nuts and pumpkin seeds in a small frypan over medium heat, stirring occasionally until lightly browned, ~1-2 minutes.
  8. Add half the nut/seed mix and half the roasted chickpeas to the lentils and toss gently to combine.
  9. Top with remaining nut/seed mix and chickpeas, as well as reserved herbs.
  10. Enjoy as a meal on its own or with some grilled chicken, barbecued meat or a piece of fish.

Fennel, Zucchini and Walnut Salad

Over the past few months, we have been enjoying a lot of salads, which I have just thrown together with whatever we have in the fridge and they have been turning out brilliantly. This is one of the ones that I actually documented what I did and thought I would share it.

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As with most salads, this one is a great one to pair with any sort of barbecued meat, chicken or fish and a good one to take to friends place if you’re asked to bring a salad as it’s a little bit different.

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I have found that with the regular appearance of new and different salads on the dinner table over the Summer, the kids have taken more of a liking to salad, especially Claire. Previously she would have a sparrows helping of salad, now she will help herself to seconds and thirds. Whether this is an age thing or a product of repetitive exposure, I’m not sure, but we’ll go with it and keep having salads.

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I have written posts before on ways to spice up a salad, but the main things that make this salad are:

  1. It contains fruit for a bit of sweetness
  2. It contains nuts for some crunch and protein
  3. It includes some veggies, which are more regularly seen as cooked veggies and not in a salad – the broccoli
  4. It is topped with cheese for some protein and, let’s be honest, everyone loves cheese.

While these points are crucial for every salad, they do help to make it a ‘next level’ salad rather than a lettuce, tomato and cucumber salad, which does get a little bit boring.

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Enjoy xx.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 a medium zucchini, finely sliced
  • 1 tbs white wine vinegar
  • 1 baby fennel, finely sliced
  • 1 green apple, cut into matchsticks
  • 1/2 a small head of broccoli, cut into small florets
  • 10 snow peas, halved lengthways
  • 10 sugar snap peas, halved lengthways
  • 10 green beans, trimmed and cut into thirds
  • 1/3 cup walnuts, toasted
  • 2 tbs goats cheese
  • 1-2 tbs fennel fronds

Dressing:

  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tbs apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 tsp honey
  • Salt and pepper

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 200°C and line a small tray with baking paper.
  2. Using a mandolin (if you have one), finely slice the zucchini into rounds and place into a small bowl. Add the white wine vinegar and toss to coat and set aside.
  3. Finely slice the fennel, using the mandolin and place into a large bowl. Change the mandolin setting to cut the apple into matchsticks and add to the fennel. If you don’t have a mandolin, using a knife will also work well for the zucchini, fennel and apple.
  4. Place broccoli florets, snow peas, sugar snap peas and beans into a medium sized bowl and blanch by covering with boiling water. Allow this to sit for 2-3 minutes and then drain the water and refresh under cold water. Add to the bowl with the fennel.
  5. Place the walnuts into the preheated oven and toast until golden brown. This will take 5-10 minutes but check after 5 minutes.
  6. While the walnuts are toasting, prepare the dressing by combining all ingredients in a small bowl or jar and mixing/shaking well to combine.
  7. Add the zucchini to the remainder of the salad ingredients, discarding the white wine vinegar. Add the dressing and toss to coat. Place into serving bowl and top with toasted walnuts, goats cheese and fennel fronds. Edible flowers are a lovely finishing touch also.
  8. Serve and enjoy.

Carrot Cake Overnight Oats with Honey and Cinnamon Yoghurt

Happy New Year. Apologies for my lack of regularity with recipes here in the past few months. I am going to make an effort to post a little more regularly this year, so stay tuned for some delicious recipes.

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Overnight oats or Bircher muesli is a great way to start your day and a nice change from an ordinary muesli or granola and great for those who love porridge in the Winter – kind of like a Summer porridge. I absolutely love a good carrot cake and the combination of spices that are used in a carrot cake are delicious, hence, I have been meaning to create this recipe for months. Currently, we have carrots growing in the garden and I have had a little bit more time with school holidays and the Christmas break, so it seemed like a good time. And a great recipe to be the first addition to my blog for 2020 and this decade.

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Oats are one of the best ways that you can start the day. They are a filling, low GI carbohydrate source, which means they will cause a lower spike in blood sugar level, leaving you feeling more satiated than something with a higher glycemic index. They also are a great source of soluble fibre, which has been shown to assist with improving cholesterol as well as being important for digestive health.

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Our kids LOVE Bircher muesli. Whenever I have made a batch, it is always the breakfast of choice over their usual faves. The carrot cake flavours were also well received, although Mark did comment that there was too much carrot, but I feel that if he couldn’t see the carrot it would not have bothered him in the slightest.

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Ordinarily, for our breakfasts, we would just have my homemade natural, Greek style yoghurt, but I thought that I would flavour the yoghurt for this with some honey and cinnamon, to make it a bit reminiscent of the cream cheese icing that often accompanies a carrot cake. If you wanted to take this one step further, you could add some cream cheese to this yoghurt. And if you wanted to make it even more carrot cake like, you could soak it in half pineapple juice to mimic the pineapple that is commonly added to a carrot cake.

Enjoy xx.

Ingredients:

Serves 6

  • 2 1/2 cups rolled oats
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp allspice
  • 60g raisins, roughly chopped
  • 1 medium carrot, peeled and grated
  • 1 medium apple, peeled and grated
  • 3 cups water

Toppings:

  • 2 cups thick Greek style yoghurt
  • 1 tbs ground cinnamon
  • 1 tbs honey
  • 1/4 cup walnuts, toasted
  • 1/4 cup coconut flakes, toasted
  • 1/4 cup pepitas, toasted

Method:

  1. The night before, prepare the oats by placing the oats, spices, raisins, grated carrot and apple into a medium sized bowl that can be covered, or a container with a lid. Stir to evenly mix the carrot, apple and spices through the oats.
  2. Add the 3 cups of water and stir again to combine. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
  3. To toast the nuts and seeds, preheat the oven to 200°C and place the walnuts onto a baking tray. Place into the oven for 10 minutes. Once 5 minutes has lapsed, add the pepitas and flaked coconut. Remove from the oven and allow to cool. Place into a container to be used in the morning.
  4. In the morning, prepare the honey cinnamon yoghurt by placing the yoghurt, honey and cinnamon into a bowl and mixing well to combine.
  5. Serve desired portion (1/2-2/3 cup is usually adequate) of soaked oats into a bowl, top with a couple of dollops of yoghurt and a sprinkle of the walnut mix.

Lemon and Rosemary Shortbread

December has arrived, which means that it is time for me to ramp up my Christmas baking! Every year, I make a collection of Christmas goodies to share with family and friends and to give to the kid’s teachers.

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This year, aside from marinating the fruit for my Fruit Mince Pies, these Lemon and Rosemary Shortbread are the first Christmas baked good of the season. I also plan to make some gingerbread of some description, obviously the mince pies and I’m yet to decide what else. I enjoy getting the kids to help me during this time as it also helps to get them involved and share the Christmas spirit – they particularly enjoy choosing what shaped cutters we use. Claire chose the stars for these shortbread.

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I chose the lemon and rosemary flavour combination as lemon is delicious in shortbread and rosemary adds a splendid fragrance and hint of savoury to a traditionally sweet biscuit. I was debating whether to use rosemary or thyme as both pair very well with lemon…maybe my next batch will be thyme. These are great with a cup of tea.

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Last Christmas, I ordered a the patterned rolling pin I have used for this shortbread, but devastatingly, it arrived after I’d completed all my Christmas baking, so I was thrilled to be able to put it to use this year. I just wish that the imprint would stay as pronounced after it is cooked as what it is before it is cooked.

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Making food as gifts is such a lovely personal gift for someone. A food gift does not specifically need to be Christmassy, it could be as simple as a jar of muesli or granola. If you would normally buy someone a box of chocolates at this time of year, why not try baking them something special.

Enjoy xx.

Ingredients:

  • 200g plain flour
  • 80g rice flour
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp finely grated lemon zest
  • 1 1/2 tsp finely chopped rosemary
  • 225g unsalted butter
  • 115g icing sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp lemon juice

Method:

  1. Remove the butter from the fridge about 30 minutes before starting to allow it to soften slightly.
  2. Place the flour, rice flour, salt, lemon zest and rosemary in a medium sized bowl and whisk to combine. Set aside.
  3. Place the butter and icing sugar into the large bowl of a stand mixer and beat on medium speed for 3-4 minutes or until light and creamy. Add the vanilla and lemon juice and beat to combine.
  4. Add the dry ingredients slowly to the butter mixture and beat until combined. Remove from the stand mixer and place the dough onto a piece of cling wrap, forming the dough into a disk. Completely cover the dough and refrigerate for at least 30-60 minutes or until firm.
  5. Once the dough is firm, preheat the oven to 160°C and line a baking tray with baking paper.
  6. Remove the dough from the fridge and roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface to a thickness of ~50-70mm. If using a stencilled rolling pin, roll the rolling pin over the dough, pressing down firmly to form an imprint. Using a cookie cutter of your choice, cut out the shortbread and place them onto the prepared tray. Re-roll any remaining dough and continue to cut out shortbread until all the dough is used.
  7. Place the shortbread into the oven and bake for 12-15 minutes, or until lightly golden in colour. Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly before transferring to a cooling rack.
  8. Once completely cool, place into an airtight container and store at room temperature.

 

Mango, Asparagus and Avocado Salad

Now that Summer and Christmas are just around the corner, I thought that I would share the salad I made today when our friends came for a late dinner.

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This salad was very much made up on the spot with what I had in the fridge, but turned out to be the quintessential Spring/Summer Salad and makes use of two of my favourite ingredients, which pair together very well, mango and asparagus. Both mango and asparagus have very short seasons, which makes me very sad, but it has meant that we have been eating a lot of them lately to make the most of them while they are in season.

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I’ve posted about how to throw together a delicious salad before, but my key tips are:

  1. Start with a leaf – it could be lettuce, rocket, spinach or other.
  2. Add some veggies – this could be a roast vegetable or a blanched vegetable. In this case I have roasted some pumpkin and blanched some asparagus.
  3. Add some typical salad veggies – I have used cherry tomatoes.
  4. Add some fruit or something for a pop of sweetness – this is where the mango shines.
  5. Add some crunch – nuts or seeds work really well.
  6. Add some cheese and or dressing to bring it all together.

The key to a good salad is a balance of flavours, sweet, salty, sour and bitter.

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Using this above framework allowed me to throw this salad together at the last minute and from the recipe below you can see how it all came together.

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I hope this provides a delicious salad for your next gathering or family meal, or at least some inspiration for throwing together your own salad with what you have in the fridge.

Enjoy xx.

Ingredients:

  • 300g pumpkin, peeled and diced into 1-2cm chunks
  • 10 spears of asparagus, cut into thirds
  • 1/2 a lettuce (I used oakleaf lettuce), torn
  • 2 handfuls of rocket
  • 8-10 cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1/2 an avocado, diced
  • 1/2 a large mango, diced
  • 1/3 cup roasted almonds, roughly chopped

Dressing:

  • 2 tbs extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tbs white wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp honey
  • 1 tsp wholegrain mustard
  • 1/2 clove garlic, crushed
  • 1/2 cup basil leaves, chopped
  • Salt and pepper

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 200°C and line a tray with baking paper.
  2. Place diced pumpkin into a bowl, drizzle with olive oil and stir to coat. Place onto prepared tray and bake for ~30 minutes or until pumpkin is golden brown. Once cooked, set aside to cool slightly.
  3. Place chopped asparagus into a bowl and cover with boiling water. Allow to sit for 3-4 minutes then refresh under cold water. Set aside.
  4. Prepare the dressing by placing all ingredients into a small jar or bowl and shake/stir well to combine. Set aside.
  5. Arrange the lettuce and rocket into the dish you are going to serve the salad in. Top with roast pumpkin, cherry tomatoes, avocado, mango and asparagus.
  6. Drizzle over the dressing and sprinkle the almonds. Lightly toss to allow the dressing to coat the salad and serve.

Lemon and Coconut Bliss Balls

I am always trying different flavours of bliss balls, as well as experimenting with ones that contain nuts and ones that are nut-free so that Mark can take them to school. Recently, Mum and Dad came to visit and brought with them a big bag of lemons, so I needed to use them up, which is where these Lemon and Coconut Bliss Balls came into play.

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Ordinarily, I would have made these with cashews or almonds, or a combination of the two, but in this case, I wanted these balls to be lunchbox friendly, so I made them with seeds rather than the nuts, which in my opinion, are not as delicious. The nuts seems to add a more smooth and creamy texture than the seeds.

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The flavour combination of lemon and coconut is reminiscent of my childhood – the good old lemon and coconut slice, which, to be honest, one of my favourite parts of this slice being made was licking the condensed milk tin! Delicious! I will still happily enjoy a piece of lemon slice if I come across one, but it is nice to be able to create similar flavours in a way that is much more nutritious for both adults and kids.

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Enjoy xx.

Ingredients:

Make ~25 balls

  • 2/3 cup rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
  • 1/3 cup sunflower seeds
  • 1/3 cup chia seeds
  • 2/3 cup shredded coconut, toasted
  • 12 medjool dates, pitted
  • 1 tbs coconut oil
  • 1 1/2 tsp finely grated lemon zest
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1 tsp vanilla bean paste (or vanilla extract) or 1 tsp vanilla protein powder
  • 1/3 cup desiccated coconut, for rolling

Method:

  1. Place oats, seeds and toasted coconut into the bowl of a food processor and blitz until resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Remove from bowl and set aside.
  2. Place dates into food processor and blitz on high until dates break up and then come back together to form a ball.
  3. Place the oats and seeds mix in with the dates and add the coconut oil and lemon zest and blitz on high to break up the ball of dates.
  4. Add the vanilla and lemon juice and blitz again until the mixture comes together and forms a large ball.
  5. Place mixture into a medium sized bowl and refrigerate for 10 minutes.
  6. In the meantime, place desiccated coconut into a small frypan and toast over medium heat until it turns golden brown. This happens quickly, so keep an eye on it.
  7. Remove the mixture from the fridge and take a heaped teaspoon of the mixture, roll into a ball and roll in the coconut. Repeat with remaining mixture.
  8. Refrigerate for up to 1 week or freeze for 2-3 months (they won’t last that long)!

Dhal with Cauliflower and Eggplant

Dhal (dal, daal, dahl) is a term used for dried, split pulses (legumes), and also for the thick soupy-like dishes that are made using these pulses.

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I have been playing around with a dhal recipe for a few months now and I’m keen to incorporate it into my regular repertoire as it’s a great way to include a meat free meal that is based on the nutrition powerhouses that are pulses. Dhal can be made using a variety of split pulses or lentils, such as red lentils, channa dhal (similar to yellow split peas) and even du puy lentils. Whichever pulse you choose to use, you are providing your body with a great source of plant based protein. Just 1/2 a cup of pulses provides as much protein as 1-2 cups of other plant based sources, such as quinoa and rice, respectively. They are also a good source of iron, folate and potassium. A great food group to include for everyone, but particularly those who choose to adopt a vegetarian or vegan diet.

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The fibre contained in pulses is soluble fibre, resistant starch and insoluble fibre. Soluble fibre assists with digestive health, as well as helping to manage body weight, increase satiety, as well as improve blood sugar levels and assist in improving cholesterol levels. Insoluble fibre assists with digestive health and provides roughage for the body, assisting with bowels. Resistant starch is possibly one of the most important types of fibre, as it is starch that is resistant to digestion, meaning it will reach the end part of the digestive tract, where all the good bacteria live, providing a source of food for these bacteria (probiotics) to feed on, improving gut health. Resistant starch also assists in improving blood sugar levels and blood cholesterol levels.

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We should be aiming to include about 1/2 a cup of pulses at least 2-3 times per week. Achieving this can be as simple as regularly consuming hummus or including kidney beans into tacos or brown lentils into a bolognese sauce or adding some chickpeas or cannellini beans into a casserole or stew.

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Often a dhal is made on its own, then served with vegetables, meat or naan on the side. I have decided to add some eggplant and cauliflower to this particular dish as the flavours work really well, it helps to bulk out the dish, increases the overall vegetable content of the meal, and the kids happily eat the eggplant, which they wouldn’t if I served it up on its own. The kids absolutely loved this meal the most recent time I made it, and I think it’s because I finally got the spice combination right, meaning that it wasn’t too spicy for them. All three of their bowls were clean at the end of the meal.

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If you are making this for adults only, I would increase the mustard seeds and garam masala by half to add a little bit of punch. If you are adults sharing this meal with children and would like a bit more heat, you can add some chilli flakes or fresh chilli at the end to spice things up.

Enjoy xx.

Ingredients:

Serves 4-6

  • 2 cups channa dhal or yellow split peas
  • 1 tbs extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 brown onion, diced
  • 6 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 10g ginger grated
  • 1 tsp yellow mustard seeds
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1/2 tsp fennel seeds
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 2 1/2 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • 1/2 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 6-8 curry leaves
  • 1/4 cup cashews, finely chopped
  • 400g crushed tomatoes
  • 400ml coconut milk
  • 1L water
  • 1 medium eggplant, diced
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 cups cauliflower, cut into small florets

Method:

  1. Place channa dhal or split peas into a bowl and cover with water. Leave to soak for at least 1 hour.
  2. Place the diced eggplant into a bowl and add salt. Toss and leave to sit for 20 minutes. Rinse off the salt and pat dry with paper towel. Set aside.
  3. Heat a large crockpot or saucepan over medium heat, add onion and sauté for 3-4 minutes until translucent. Add the ginger, garlic, mustard seeds, cumin seeds and fennel seeds and cook, stirring for a further 2-3 minutes. Add the remainder of the spices, curry leaves, cashews and tomatoes and stir to form a thick paste.
  4. Add the coconut milk, soaked pulses, eggplant and water and bring to the boil. Once boiled, reduce the heat and allow to simmer for at least an hour, stirring occasionally, until the pulses are tender but have not turned to mush. Add more water if needed.
  5. Once 20 minutes of cooking time has passed, add the cauliflower and continue cooking until the pulses are tender.
  6. Once cooked, serve with steamed rice or naan.

Roast Cauliflower and Cannellini Bean Soup

A cold Winter’s day call for a nice bowl of warm, filling and nourishing soup, and with Cauliflower in season, what better soup to make than a Roast Cauliflower and Cannellini Bean Soup.

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I do already have a Creamy Bacon and Cauliflower Soup on my blog, which is very popular, and super delicious, but if you are looking for a wholesome meat free cauliflower soup, then this is the one for you. The addition of the cannellini beans adds a quality source of plant based protein, helping to increase satiety and assist with muscle repair and growth, as well as being a rich soluble fibre source. Legumes, pulses and beans are often a forgotten group of foods, especially for meat eaters, which is a shame as they are a nutritional powerhouse. I am trying to include these into my cooking and our meals on a more regular basis.

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Cauliflower is a vegetable which belongs to the brassica family, the same family as broccoli, brussel sprouts and cabbage. It is very low in calories and a good source of fibre, which is important for digestive health, and antioxidants, such as vitamin C, which helps to boost the immune system and improve heart health. By roasting the cauliflower prior to making this soup, enhances the flavour of the cauliflower and provides a deep caramelised flavour, which pairs really well with the parmesan cheese that is added at the end.

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We have had this batch of cauliflower soup with some Pumpkin, Cheese and Rosemary Scones, a Not Quite Nigella recipe, which is linked here. These scones are light, fluffy and oh so flavoursome – definitely worth a try. If you’re not into scones, a nice crusty piece of bread with some butter works nicely, or even the soup on it’s own makes a great meal.

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The kids ate some of this soup. I wouldn’t say they loved it, but they ate it (except Elise, who threw her bowl on the floor…she is only 17 months, so I won’t take it to heart)! Despite this, I will continue to make soups like this and keep offering to the kids, and one day (hopefully) they will really enjoy them, and ask for a second bowl. Persistence and food exposure is key when it comes to kids.

Enjoy xx.

Ingredients:

  • 1 head of cauliflower, cut into florets
  • 3 tbs extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 red onion, sliced
  • 4 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 5 sprigs of thyme
  • 2 cups of broccoli florets
  • 1 tin cannelini beans, drained and rinsed
  • 4 cups of chicken or vegetable stock
  • Pinch of nutmeg
  • 2 tbs lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Method:

  1. Heat the oven to 180°C and line a baking tray with baking paper.
  2. Place the cauliflower florets into a bowl, drizzle with 2 tbs of olive oil and place onto the baking tray and bake for 30-40 minutes or until golden brown.
  3. Heat a large soup pot over medium heat, add remaining olive oil and onion and cook, stirring regularly for 6-7 minutes or until soft, translucent and golden brown. Add garlic and thyme and cook for a further 2-3 minutes.
  4. Add the roasted cauliflower, broccoli florets, stock, cannelini beans, salt and pepper and bring to the boil. Once boiling, reduce the heat to low and simmer for 15-20 minutes or until broccoli is tender. Allow to cool slightly.
  5. Using a stick blender, blend the soup until smooth. Add the cheese, milk, nutmeg and lemon juice and blend until incorporated.
  6. Serve topped with some fresh chives.