Thursday, 23 January 2014

banana walnut bread

My love for walnuts knows no boundaries. I like keeping a jar of chopped walnuts in my kitchen and top my yoghurt with some (they are a great source of omega-3 fatty acids). When we moved to the UK I discovered an organic brand called Yeo Valley and that's the yoghurt I use now in all my recipes. By the way, they did not pay me for saying that; I will gladly support that brand on my blog. As I was baking this walnut bread over the holidays, I realised that I had never shared the recipe on my English food blog, only the Icelandic one, which I started sooner. I got the recipe at Starbucks in Canada a few years back and I have made some changes, of course. I found it a bit interesting that they said the fat content had been reduced yet the original recipe contained ½ cup vegetable oil, which I find way too much. The walnuts are fatty enough so there is no need for all that oil. I hardly have to tell you that I have reduced the sugar content as well and added some pure maple syrup, which I also love. In the original recipe it says buttermilk but usually I use natural yoghurt.

BANANA WALNUT BREAD

INGREDIENTS

  • 260 g (2 cups) spelt flour (I like mixing fine and wholegrain)
  • 1 tablespoon gluten free baking powder (½ if using regular)
  • ¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 100 g (½ cup) organic raw cane sugar
  • 2 tablespoons pure maple syrup or agave syrup or organic raw cane sugar
  • 1 large free-range egg
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract or organic vanilla sugar
  • 2-3 tablespoons organic natural yoghurt or buttermilk
  • 3 large bananas or 4 small (the original recipe says ripe)
  • ½ cup chopped walnuts + 1 handful to top the batter

METHOD

  1. Blend together the spelt flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside
  2. In another bowl, mix together the egg, sugar, syrup and coconut oil
  3. Add the flour mixture and gently mix with a spatula (don't worry if it looks a bit dry)
  4. Mash the bananas and add them to the mixture with the vanilla extract and yoghurt/buttermilk
  5. Fold in the ½ cup chopped walnuts
  6. Line a loaf tin with parchment paper and pour the batter into it
  7. Top with a handful of chopped walnuts (the original recipe says ⅓ cup but I find it too much)
  8. Bake at 175°C/325°C/gas mark 3 for 40-50 minutes (if you stick a fork into the centre and it comes out clean your bread is ready)
  9. Allow to cool on a wire rack for about 10 minutes before removing from the loaf tin

Monday, 16 December 2013

chocolate frosting or sauce

One of the most viewed recipes on the blog is my chocolate tray bake and for quite some time I have been meaning to share a chocolate frosting that I now use when serving the cake. I use the same recipe to make a chocolate sauce that I sometimes serve with the meringue tops that I also posted today. When making the sauce I add a bit more water (you can use the sauce on ice cream as well). Just make sure you prepare the frosting/sauce about one hour before serving.

CHOCOLATE FROSTING OR SAUCE

INGREDIENTS

  • 3 tablespoons cocoa powder, preferable organic/fair-trade
  • 1½ tablespoon organic raw cane sugar
  • 2½ tablespoon agave nectar
  • 3-3½ tablespoons water (4½-5 tbsp = about 75 ml if making chocolate sauce)
  • a small piece organic dark chocolate or milk chocolate (about 20 g)
  • optional: pinch of sea salt, fine

METHOD

  1. Put all the ingredients into a small pan or saucepan
  2. Bring to the boil over medium heat, stirring gently. Then remove from heat
  3. Pour the chocolate frosting/sauce into a bowl and let it sit for about one hour before serving

meringue tops (chocolate)

I have done more experiments with meringue recipes than I care to remember and I have come to the conclusion that a healthier version of meringues is a wishful thinking (this will very likely always be the recipe with the most sugar content on the blog). There are limits to how little sugar can be used with the egg whites without ending up with something that maybe tastes like meringue but has the texture of sponge scourers. (I almost hang my head in shame when I think of some of my experiments!) Over the years I have viewed many meringue recipes and many of them come with advice. To give you some, I find it best to add the raw cane sugar gradually, not in one go, and I add just a little bit of cornflour to the sugar (I have tried baking powder, lemon juice, cream of tartar and a blend of it all). If you are new to meringue making, make sure not a trace of egg yolk goes into the mixing bowl (see tip below the method*). Despite the sugar content the taste of the meringue tops isn't over-sugary. I get six tops from the recipe and I serve them with whipped cream, fresh berries and sometimes home-made chocolate sauce as well.

MERINGUE TOPS (CHOCOLATE)

INGREDIENTS

  • 4 egg whites (use large free-range eggs, at room temperature)
  • 185 g organic raw cane sugar (as fine as possible)
  • ½ teaspoon cornflour
  • pinch of fine sea salt
  • for chocolate meringue tops: ½ tablespoon cocoa powder, preferably organic/fair-trade

METHOD

  1. Separate the eggs
  2. Mix raw cane sugar and cornflour in a separate bowl, preferably with a handle (a measuring cup will also do)
  3. Add a pinch of salt to the mixing bowl with the egg whites and beat them until you get a slightly fluffy texture. Gradually add the sugar until the texture has become thick (the process takes me about 12 minutes)
  4. If making chocolate meringue tops, sieve over the cocoa powder and use a spatula to gently fold it through to create a marbled effect
  5. Line a baking tray with baking parchment and use a spatula to form 6 meringue tops, using slow swirling movements
  6. Bake at 125-140°C/250-275°F/gas mark ½ for about 80 minutes, then turn the oven off, open the oven door and let the meringue tops sit in the oven for another 10 minutes
  7. Serve with whipped cream and fresh berries
  8. If you want to serve the meringue tops with chocolate sauce then prepare the sauce while the tops are in the oven, as it needs to sit for an hour before serving

*If you are new to meringue making or maybe a bit clumsy then separate the eggs while they are still cold, one at a time: Use separate bowls for the egg whites and yolks. After cracking each egg, transfer the egg white from the bowl to the mixing bowl before cracking another one. If using cold eggs, cover the mixing bowl with a plastic film or a plate when you are done and wait for about 30 min. until you start beating the egg whites.

the meringue tops before going into the oven

Thursday, 26 September 2013

sweet potato soup with toasted pumpkin seeds

This sweet potato soup screams autumn. I found it on the website of Sweet Paul and I only made minor changes: I added the choice of using coconut oil instead of olive oil, I used Greek yoghurt instead of heavy cream, and I added the ginger. I haven't tasted it with thyme twigs yet but I'm sure it adds a wonderful flavour. Happy Autumn!

SWEET POTATO SOUP WITH TOASTED PUMPKIN SEEDS

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 onion
  • 1 garlic clove
  • optional: fresh ginger (about the size of a dice)
  • 4 large sweet potatoes
  • 3 large carrots
  • 1½-2 tablespoons olive oil or coconut oil (2 in original recipe)
  • 2 organic vegetable stock cubes (or chicken)
  • 1 litre (4 cups) water
  • 190 ml (¾ cup) Greek yoghurt (heavy cream in original recipe)
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground chilli
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • garnish: toasted pumpkin seeds and thyme twigs and Greek yoghurt (or heavy cream)

METHOD

  1. Peel and chop the onion, sweet potatoes, carrots, and ginger
  2. In a large saucepan, sauté them briefly the oil
  3. Add the vegetable stock cubes and water and bring to the boil, then lower the heat to low-medium
  4. Cook for around 25 minutes or until the vegetables are tender
  5. Using a hand blender, purée the soup. Then add Greek yoghurt (or cream) to thicken it
  6. Stir the soup and bring to the boil
  7. Season with chilli and pepper. Add salt if required
  8. Toast pumpkin seeds in a pan until lightly toasted
  9. Serve soup in bowls garnished with pumpkin seeds, fresh thyme and a drizzle of Greek yoghurt (heavy cream)

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