Cumin Seed Cloud Bread

Cloud bread

As my lovely other half was recently diagnosed as Type 1 diabetic this year. Quite quickly our usual cooking endeavours in low carb and gluten-free for fitness reasons took a more serious turn. This was followed by lots of experimenting in the kitchen, looking into ways to replace daily things like rice, pasta and bread. We still eat those of course, but we’re saving those blood sugar spikes for special occasions.

So here is my take on “Cloud Bread” which has been doing the rounds on fitness and health websites. First of all, as a disclaimer, this is not bread, this is not like delicious chewy floury bread. However, texture wise, it’s a bit eating the tops off soufflés! Out of the oven they a light and fluffy.  They flatten down slightly overnight should you want to take them into a packed lunch, but they still maintain being light and delicious. The original recipe asks for cream cheese, honey or stevia. I have none of those in this version. Only greek yogurt. And as I was making these for a super delicious home cooked vegetarian Indian meal, it seemed fitting to make it savoury.

Makes 6.

Cumin Seed Cloud Bread:
3 eggs
3 tbsp greek yogurt
1/2 tsp cream of tartar
2 tbsp cumin seeds
small pinch of sea salt

Preheat oven to 150°C (300°F). Prep a flat baking tray with silicon mats sprayed with non-stick baking spray. Or prep some grease proof paper.

In a heavy bottomed pan, take 1 tbsp of cumin seeds and dry roast until fragrant. Set aside.

Separate your eggs. Put the egg yolks into a small bowl and whisk together with the yogurt, salt and dry roasted cumin seeds. Put your egg white into a stand mixer (or use a hand mixer) add the cream of tartar and whisk until they form stiff peaks.

With a rubber spatula slowly fold in the egg yolk mixture, careful to keep as much air as possible. Once just mixed, gently fold out six cloud shapes on the baking tray, and sprinkle with the remaining cumin seeds. Bake for 30 minutes until golden brown, turn your clouds in the oven if need be for uniform colour.

cloud bread prep

Slow Cooker Conjee (Jook) 粥

congeeUrghhhh. I have been so ill this week, which coincided with me freelancing at a new company whom I wanted to impress and continue working for so I’ve been rather run down. But it’s Friday evening and the client seems happy with the animations, so happy days! I’ve been forced to do a lot of overtime so I decided to give my slow cooker a whirl while I was at work so I could just head home to eat with the little energy that I had and head straight to bed loaded with paracetamol.

It worked I think, in that I managed to produce silky smooth congee that reminded me of the comforting healing flavours of my childhood (mmmm….rice gruel) as well as reducing that cooking time and allowing me to rest more. This is a recipe for a basic congee, it’ll do 4-6 servings depending on how hungry you are. To this I added some fish at the very end, but we’ll get to that bit later.

Basic Congee Recipe:
1 cup jasmine or basmati rice
8-9 cups water
a 2 inch bit of ginger, peeled
salt & white pepper to taste

Super easy. Use a meat tenderiser mallet or the flat side of a cleaver and smash that pealed ginger a bit to release more flavours while you cook. Whack the ginger, rice and water into the slow cooker and set it on low for 8-12 hours. Your basically done! Season to taste when ready.

Mine needed a cup more water after a 12 hour shift so adjust accordingly really, but it’s super simple to then portion out what you want to eat in a small pot on the stove to make it the perfect consistency. This technique is also good because congee usually  forever to cook nicely without rice water bubbling everywhere, so my mother will be pleased to note that this is a very clean and hassle free way of cooking jook.

To this basic recipe you then what to add other ingredients. Classics like pork with thousand-year old egg and numerous other combinations come to mind. But I only had a bit of fish in my fridge so I sliced the fillet diagonally, and marinated that with a bit of cornstarch, soy, white pepper and thinly sliced ginger. Then I cooked it very slowly over low heat and served with spring onions and a splash of soy and sesame oil. But I love this comforting rice gruel so I’ll post more recipes along this congee tangent later.

Herby Popovers (Yorkshire Puddings)

popovers Yorkshire puddings

So I was searching for a quick and easy gluten-free bread to soak up all the saucy sauce of my shakshuka and I came over these popovers. A little research, and tasting, has revealed that these are nothing more but the humble Yorkshire Pudding. The staple of so many a roast dinner. What’s nice about these though is that it made me realise that outside of the roast context (and the important toad in a hole context) I’ve never really eaten Yorkshire Puddings with very much. Why is that? Why is it that we don’t eat these delicious morsels more often? Now that I know how easy, quick and fool-proof they are I’ll be making them every time I’m short of bread. These are gluten and dairy free though you can substitute the flour and milk for the real deals in identical portions.

Makes 12.

Herby Popovers:
4 eggs
1 cup gluten-free flour
1 cup dairy free milk
2 tbsp dried herbs (I went oregano and rosemary)
12 tsp veg oil
generous pinch of salt and pepper

Oven to 220°C. When that getting hot, prep your muffin tin by putting a teaspoon of oil into each muffin mould. When the oven’s at heat pop the tray in and get it piping hot. 10 minutes should do. 

In a mixing bowl or stand mixer, whisk everything up until it’s lump free. Remove the muffin tin and carefully pour the batter into each mould. It should sizzle as you pour.

Pop them back in the oven and wait for them to ‘pop over’ (oh right, that’s where the name comes from…). Don’t open that bloody oven! After 25 minutes they should be risen and golden brown. These are delectably light out of the oven and very moorish. I’ve just made a batch to have with some courgette soup…you have been warned.

Shakshuka

shakshuka

This is an amazingly satisfying dish to knock up for breakfast or brunch. It’s happily made in my kitchen to soothe any woes on the weekend. I made this recently with some ridiculously easy to make savory pop-ups (think breakfast muffins crossed with Yorkshire puddings) to mop up the saucy sauce. There are anchovies in this, so omit them if you would like this to be veggie. Serves 4 generously.

Shakshuka:
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
150 ml rapeseed oil or light veg oil
2-3 banana shallots, thinly sliced
3-4 garlic cloves, crushed
2 long sweet peppers (1 red & 1 yellow), thinly sliced
4 tsp dark muscovado sugar
2 bay leaves
6 sprigs of thyme, leaves only
4 tbsp coriander, finely chopped (plus extra to garnish)
6 large ripe tomatoes, roughly chopped
4-6 anchovy fillets (the salty oil preserved kind)
1 tsp saffron threads
Pinch of cayenne
Pinch of dried chillies
Salt & pepper
Approx. 250 ml water
6-8 eggs

Get a large skillet to medium-high heat. Once hot, dry roast the cumin seeds for a minute or so until they smell fragrant. Add your oil and sauté your shallots for about 5 minutes. Add the onion and cook them for about a minute, careful they don’t burn. The peppers, sugar, bay leaves, thyme and coriander go in next for about 5-10 minutes. Until they turn a lovely colour.

Now add your tomatoes, anchovies, saffron, cayenne, chillies and a bit of salt and pepper. Reduce the heat to low and cook for a further 15 minutes. Keep an eye on the thickness and consistency, you want this like a thick pasta sauce so add your water gradually throughout the cooking process to keep it at the right level of sauciness. Once this is ready check your seasonings, it should be really flavoursome.

Heat at low. Remove the bay leaves from the pan. Use a wooden spoon the make craters in the pepper and tomato mixture and gently crack an egg into each of the holes. Sprinkle with some more salt and pepper and get a pan lid on. Gently cook the eggs for around 10 minutes. I like to watch this part obsessively as I want to keep my yolks runny. When the eggs are *just* set and even still a little bit raw in the egg whites I like to take the skillet off the heat and serve the whole pan on the table ready for eating. The remaining heat of the shakshuka will perfectly cook the eggs. Sprinkle with and bit of the remaining coriander and eat!

It’s worthwhile noting that this is an easily changeable dish depending on what you have left over in the fridge. Bit of gravy from the night before? Whack it in. Fetta? Preserved lemons? Get them in! Left over bit’s and pieces are so easily used up in this beautiful breakfast stew.

Healthy Pancakes

healthy pancakes I’m not even going to try and convince you why these are healthy. They just are. And they’re delicious. It’s a recipe I’ve found through almost a year of experimenting with “The Healthy Pancake” which is more or less the holy grail of indulgent breakfast desires. But these *are* significantly healthier than your regular pancakes. This combo is a riff off the popular “Two Ingredients Pancake” with the addition of baking flour and a pinch of salt. Which still makes these babies: gluten, wheat, and dairy free. The following makes enough for 8 small pancakes.

Healthy Pancakes:
1 large banana, ripe
2 eggs
1 tsp baking flour
1 pinch of sea salt flakes
Some rapeseed oil

What I’ve found in the past is an issue with flipping these, or even sizing. So I’ve developed a bit of a work around to this which you may or may not want to follow, but I use two pans. One normal non stick frying pan and an egg frying pan to control the size. Because. Well I’m a designer by trade. Anyway, get these both on the hobs at low-medium heat. Add a tiny bit of the oil (not butter as it burns) and with a paper kitchen towel lightly coat each pan with the oil. You’ll need to do this every time you cook a new batch.

In a blender break your banana roughly into 3 segments, add the rest of your ingredients. Pulse until the banana is *just* mixed, I use 4-5 pulses and there are still maybe little bits of banana, this is okay as it helps with the rise of the batter. When your pans are at heat, pour the batter into small rounds, wait a few minutes until bubbles start to form. Use a palette knife to loosen the bases (if not following my slightly anal technique, flip now). Place the other pan on top and flip over! Easy, now let the other side cook for a few minutes while you re-oil and cook the rest. Repeat as necessary.

That’s it! Cook as you may really but this is how I do them. When it comes to serving I smear a bit of almond butter between each layer and top with berries and maple syrup. Maybe a sprinkling of cinnamon…and some butter…Hey! I’m not insane, I said the pancakes themselves were healthy! Didn’t say they had to be tasteless!

Now, what do I categorise these under? I’m going for “eggs” & “cakes”…

DIY Nut butters

Nut butter I absolutely refuse to buy nut butters from shops now that I know how easy it is to make my own without all that extra processed crap in it. I like to do this with any left over baking nuts I have. I’m using ground almonds here, but you can apply this to cashews, walnuts, desiccated coconut…mmmm…

Almond butter:
100 g approx. ground almonds
a pinch of sea salt flakes

Just look at that ingredient list! Two! I mean, if you’re being fancy sure you can probably add honey or maple syrup and cinnamon…but you know: Keep it simple stupid (for now anyway).

Get your oven to 170°C, line a baking tray with some parchment and spread the nuts evenly exposing as much of them to the heat of the oven. Pop them in for about 10 minutes and keep checking to make sure they don’t burn. Remove from oven and let them cool to room temperature.

Now whack the nuts and the pinch of salt into a food processor and blendity blend blend. Ground almonds and desiccated coconut take literally a couple of minutes to turn into the gooey loveliness, you can even use a hand blender I’ve found. You might need to use a rubber spatula occasionally to *scrape* *blend* *scrape* *blend*. For larger bits of nuts you’ll need a stronger food processor, but don’t doubt the process! Give your nuts at least 10 minutes and I promise they’ll go from chopped nuts to the magical joy of blended deliciousness.

Shrimp & Grits: Prawns & Polenta

shrimp and grits

I went to an Asian supermarket Friday evening and bought a rather large box of prawns. Those nice big juicy prawns, not those icky dinky ones. A pad Thai was made (which was delicious but I’m going to absolutely nail it recipe wise so that’ll be a later post)…and then a sort of prawn linguine was made for dinner and yet I still had left over prawns for another meal and I was seemingly at a loss as to what to cook. It was only after browsing a kitchen cupboard and seeing a bag of polenta that inspiration came.

It’s extraordinary how much American food knowledge I actually have in my head and how little I’ve actually been there. There must be some sort of universal love of soul food or at least comforting warming gooey textures that everyone must like. Or at least me. I bloody love soul food.

So for those uninitiated, ‘Shrimp & Grits’ translates to: lovely stir fired prawns (or sautéd if you’re being posh), sat a top a gorgeously unctuous soft polenta.

Serves 2.

Shrimp & Grits:
1/2 cup polenta
About a cup of grated parmesan
1 tbsp butter
1 cup stock
1 cup boiled water (or more as needed)
12 Shrimp - shelled & deveined
1 tbsp Rapeseed oil (or olive oil)
2 rashers of bacon - diced
2 spring onions - finely diced
1 garlic clove - crushed
6 fingers of Okra - roughly chopped
4 Brown chestnut mushrooms - quartered
Dash of tabasco
Splash of Worcester sauce
Salt and pepper to taste
2 wedges lemon

Get some water boiled first, you’ll need this to make sure the polenta is the right soft texture. Heat the stock in a saucepan, once boiling you’ll want to whisk continuously whist slowly adding the polenta into the sauce pan. This will take approximately 20 minutes to cook. Keep checking and whisking the polenta occasionally. Also keep an eye on the liquid content, you may want to gradually add splashes of boiled water to maintain the correct texture. Aim for a thick porridge constancy, where you can just see the bottom of the pan as you whisk.

Now tend to the topping. In a frying pan at medium heat your oil, and when this is hot add the garlic then the bacon. Once the bacon is nearly done add the okra, mushrooms. Stir fry these for about a minute then add the prawns. Keep stir frying and tossing until the prawns start to turn pink. Now add the spring onions and the tobacco and Worcester sauces.  Season to taste. Get the pan off the heat and finish the polenta.

Your polenta should be cooked and just the right texture now, add the grated cheese. Season should you need to and finally stir in the butter.

In a shallow bowl, spoon in the polenta and make a bit of a well. Now spoon over the prawn mixture and serve with a wedge of lime.

Gluten Free Banana Bread

Gluten Free Banana Bread

Success! After about two failed loafs I have now cracked a gluten-free recipe for some tasty banana bread. I’ve been experimenting with my own mixture of cornmeal, rice flour and almond flour but the results were too firm and too dry. So I caved and bought some Dove Farm white flour and tweaked my recipe accordingly. I’ve definitely just eaten a slice and it’s really yummy! So I can finally post it up.

To make things even better, in my supreme efficiency (or let’s be honest: laziness) it’s all just 1 pot and so fast to knock up! So if you have a stand mixer, don’t even bother mashing the bananas, if you’ve only got a hand-held one, maybe mash them up a bit with a fork.

Gluten Free Banana Bread:
2 cups gluten-free plain flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp vanilla essence
1/2 a block of butter softened (125 g)
3/4 cup light soft brown sugar (150 g)
2 eggs
6 ripe bananas (one set aside for decorating)
3 tbsp soft dark sugar
1-2 tbsp hot water

Oven onto 170°C. In your mixing bowl put the flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt in. Stir these dry ingredients up a bit. Then add the vanilla essence, butter, light brown sugar, eggs and 5 bananas (remember to set one of the 6 aside).

Now turn the mixer on low to medium speed and prep your bread pan.

Butter the pan thoroughly and place a greaseproof sheet at the bottom. The mixing should be done now so pour in your batter. Slice lengthways your banana for decorating and place on top.

In a small bowl mix the 2 tbsp of dark soft sugar with just enough hot water to dissolve it all. With a pastry brush, carefully  wash the top of the raw batter mixture and banana with 2/3 of the sugar mix. While this bakes it should turn into a crunchy caramel topping.

Bake for 60-65 mins, or until a skewer comes out clean. In the final 5 minutes use the remaining sugar wash. Leave the banana bread in the pan for another 10-15 minutes before removing and it should come out really easily after you go round the edges with a knife.

I couldn’t help but try a still warm piece straight away! Honestly, fastest bake to blog post ever.

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