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

Overnight Oats or Bircher Muesli Basic Recipe

bircher muesli

Breakfasts for a long time now have been a staple of scrambled eggs, with some slices of avocado or smoked salmon. But the season’s have started to change and all I want to eat now appears to be fruit salad and plain yogurt. In the interest of keeping things interesting I’ve started experimenting with various recipes of Bircher muesli or overnight oats. I’ve recently been buying some gluten-free oats and it’s opened up a whole new thankful world of porridge again, albeit the cold variety.

This is a mega adaptable and incredibly easy as it’s all about doing it quickly the night before and you don’t really want to be faffing around with too many measuring cups. This is enough for two tumblers full, so serves two.

Bircher Muesli Basic Recipe:
1 apple or Asian pear
1/2 cup oats
1/2 cup natural set yogurt
1/2 cup fruit juice
1/4 cup raisins or saltanas
Handful of fruit and nuts to serve
Honey should you fancy it

Peel the apple or pear. I’ve used Granny Smiths, Pink Ladies and nashi pears. Anything firm and tart is good. Grate the apple through a medium grate or the finest tooth setting on a mandolin and chop it up into extra fine bits. Add this to a large mixing bowl with the oats, yogurt, raisins and juice. For the juice you can go with apple, orange, pear or even pineapple juice. The last batch I made with apple and mango juice and it was lovely. Stir everything together and put them into some tumblers and leave in the fridge overnight for the next morning. When ready to eat, garnish with some fresh fruit and nuts and maybe a drizzle of honey should you want it. Maybe even a sprinkling of cinnamon or flaxseed. Go nuts.

So easy, fresh and satisfying.

Charred Aubergine with Tahini & Yogurt

Charred Aubergine Dip

I’ve just come back from Puglia in the south of Italy with a group of friends. It was a cycling trip where we essentially cycled our bikes, swam in the azure seas and cycled some more until we were hungry, then proceeded to eat and drink an awful lot. The food there is so earnest and simple. They have access to some of the most incredible ingredients in the world because of their amazing climate, so they’re only interested in basic cooking to elevate the natural flavours. I’m really in to that.

Back in London we are in the midsts of this weird Summer vibe where it seems that the general en-mass willing of summer not to be over *just* yet has resulted in some pretty warm october nights. This dip is something I prepared as part of a romantic picnic in the summer solstice, so it seems only fitting to revisit it again with the warm hazy glow of Puglia and my own Londonian attempts to squeeze the very last of summer out. It’s simple and delicious.

Charred Aubergine with Tahini & Yogurt (Serves 2-4):
1 large aubergine
70g tahini paste
60 ml water
1 tbsp pomegranate molasses
1 generous squeeze of a lemon
1 garlic clove - crushed
3 mini cucumbers - diced
seeds from half a pomegranate
3 tbsp parsley - roughly chopped
2-3 generous dollops of greek yogurt
a drizzle of olive oil
1 tsp paprika
salt and pepper

On a gas hob, place the aubergine directly onto a medium flame and roast for 12-15 minutes, turning frequently. The flesh should end up soft and smoky with the skin burnt all over. Alternatively, if you haven’t got gas hobs, crank up that oven high, 200°C maybe, and whack your aubergine in and keep turning it in that heat. 20-40 minutes in, the skin should also char and the aubergine should sag telling you the flesh is all lovely and soft. On a similar warning to my last aubergine post: Poke a couple of holes near the stem part of the aubergine to stop it exploding in the oven.

Once your aubergine is done, transfer all that lovely soft flesh into a medium mixing bowl. To this add the tahini, molasses, water, lemon juice, garlic, cucumber, parsley, paprika, yogurt, half the pomegranate seeds and some salt and pepper. Adjust the seasoning to your liking. Drizzle with olive oil and the rest of the pomegranate seeds to finish. Eat!

Crusted Pumpkin with a Yogurt Dip

Crusted Pumpkin

It’s the first week back to work for me, and boy has 2013 started off with a bang. I feel like I’ve had the hit the ground running from the airport since arriving back from Hong Kong. It’s also really rather cold in London compared to the shockingly low temps of 11°C I had to endure over the holiday so all I want to eat is warming comfort food. Amazingly I had all the ingredients for this at home, plus it uses up breadcrumbs that tend to sit around forever in the cupboard. What’s not to like?

Crusted Pumpkin:
a small pumpkin
A large handful of grated parmesan
A smaller handful of panko breadcrumbs
A handful parsley - finely chopped
1 tbsp dried oregano
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp cayenne pepper
Zest of a lemon
1 garlic clove
3 tbsp olive oil
A pinch of sea salt
A few cracks of black pepper
4 tbsp plain yogurt
1 tsp sumac

Oven to 190°C. Cut your pumpkin into 1 cm wedges, leave the skin on. Get them on a baking tray lined with greaseproof paper. In a separate bowl mix all of the crust ingredients together (except for the yogurt and sumac), you can use ordinary breadcrumbs of course, but I don’t have any of those. Besides, get yourself a bag of panko it’s way *way* nicer. You’ll wait to taste your mix before adding salt as the cheese will be salty.

Brush the pumpkin slices generously with the oil and coat them with the crust mixture, you’ll want a few millimetres of the deliciousness. Gently pat the mixture to bind it better.

Whack it in the oven for around 30 minutes. I’ve burnt mine a wee bit as I left them in a bit long. Oh well. Texture!

While that’s cooking mix up your yogurt dip with some salt, pepper, maybe a bit of olive oil or cream if it’s not the consistency that you want. Sprinkle with the sumac before serving. Get those wedges out of the oven when done and maybe squeeze some lemon juice over them. Super easy and fun to eat.

Warm Butternut Squash & Kale Salad with Tahini Yogurt Dressing

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Autumn is officially here, and after a cycle ride home through the brisk chill where I’m definitely justifying those natty leather gloves I spied in the winter sports shop (I mean, I’ll use them for cycling as well as snowboarding…totally worth it!), I’m also feeling the need for a hearty warm salad.

This is quite heavily influenced by the wonderful Yotam Ottolenghi, who’s thoughts behind seasonal ingredients and saving meat eating for special occasions I greatly admire. So with the chilly weather still in mind, think of the following as an off piste Ottolenghi dish.

Salad Ingredients:
1 large butternut squash - skin on, cut into wedges
2 red onions - cut into quarters
2 ample handfuls of curly leaf kale - roughly shredded
3 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp raw nuts - I went with peanuts
2 pinches of dried herbs - I went with rosemary & oregano
Sea salt & black pepper - approx 1/4 tsp each
A few basil leaves to garnish

Get your oven to 220°C. While that’s heating up, toss your butternut squash and onions in a bowl with the olive oil, dried herbs, salt and pepper. When evenly coated, put onto an oven tray lined with some foil or parchment and whack it into the oven. Cook for 30-40 mins, the onions may cook a bit faster so keep an eye on them. Take this time to toast your nuts in a bit of olive oil and salt until nicely brown – set them aside. The kale will only take around 5 minutes to cook so make your dressing beforehand.

Yogurt & tahini dressing:
2-3 tbsp Greek yogurt
2 tbsp tahini
1 tbsp lemon
1 clove garlic crushed
Salt to taste
Water for preferred consistency

In a small bowl, whisk together the yogurt and tahini. I only had Chinese sesame paste, which let’s face it is basically tahini…only more toasted tasting. Add the lemon juice and crushed garlic. I was fresh out of garlic so opted for garlic salt instead so I omitted the ‘salt to taste’ bit. Keep whisking and add your water a little at a time until you get the right dribbly consistency for dressing. You only need a couple of tablespoons of this, keep the rest in the fridge for later.

In the last few minutes: get your kale cooked in some boiling water. Once done strain and shake out the excess water. In a bowl gently toss the kale, squash and onion with half of your toasted peanuts. Now dress on a plate and drizzle some of that creamy yogurt sesame goodness. Finish with the rest of the toasted nuts and basil leaves. I gobbled the lot, but as a side dish I’d imagine this would feed two.

Homemade yogurt: a cultured endeavour

I’ve recently decided to get Abel & Cole to deliver a small exotic veg box to me once a week. Their service is great and it has really got me out of a slump in terms of the total lack of inspiration I get whenever I walk into my local Tesco Express. I always have such high hopes when I walk into that Tesco, maybe I’ll get inspired and whip up something amazing. But after doing my zombie rounds, I always end up with a box of eggs; a courgette; some beetroot; and cherry tomatoes…without fail. So upon the arrival of my maiden veg box, brimming with fresh shiitake mushrooms; curly leaf kale; purple carrots; and rainbow chard…I could have cried tears of joy. What’s more amazing is that as well as getting a box of organic exotic veg – every other week I get something free. One week I got orange juice the next a litre of semi skimmed milk.

It is this bottle of milk that this post shall focus on. As much I have every intention to finish a litre of milk, I simply don’t eat enough cereal or drink enough tea to justify this amount of milk without it going off. And sad to say, I have in the past let a perfectly good amount of milk go off and had to lumpily pour it down the sink. So the other day when I checked the fridge and saw this gratis and completely unopened bottle of milk about to turn – I decided to do something about it.

Things you'll need to make yogurt:
1 litre of milk - any type is fine
2-3 tbsp plain yogurt with live cultures - your starter
large pot to heat milk - or slow cooker
sugar or jam thermometer
glass bowl big enough for your milk
whisk
sieve
Jam jars or a big enough glass container for your yogurt

So first you want to pasteurise your milk. Get it in a pot on your stove and heat it ever so slowly (to avoid burny milk) to 82°C – I actually did this in my slow cooker. Once it reaches that temp remove from heat and let it cool to 43°C. While cooling, put your jams jars in the sink and submerge them in hot water. Basically you don’t want cold jam jars for when you transfer your milk and yogurt mixture. Hot liquid and jars: friendly bacteria sexy times. Pour hot water into your glass bowl now too, you’ll need it for the next step.

When your milk has cooled enough get that hot water out of your bowl and pour your milk in. Add those tablespoons of yogurt starter and whisk up a bacillus party! When mixed thoroughly get your jam jars outta the sink and decant the milk mixture in through a sieve. Now place those jars in a warm place and don’t touch them for 8-12 hours – your bacteria like a bit of calm so they don’t die but multiply…I’m sure there’s a rap lyric in there somewhere…oh! Haha, brilliant. Pinoy hip hop. God, I love the internet. I’m just going to go ahead and let that play in the background while I continue to write this…Anyway, I put my yogurt vessel in the oven with the light on overnight.

The next day you should have made beautifully set yogurt! Now put it in the fridge until it’s cooled and ready for you to eat.

I was surprised at how light and creamy mine turned out. The yogurt I used as my starter was quite sharp and I sort of expected it to cultivate a similar flavour. Nope. I served my first ever batch of yogurt with mixed berries, some shredded basil and a drizzle of honey. Delish. If you want a Greek style thicker set yogurt, strain your yogurt over some muslin cloth and sieve for 2-3 hours in the fridge. Also, it turns out that the good bacteria doesn’t denature when you freeze it, so when you’re almost done eating don’t forget to put a few tablespoons in the freezer so you can use your own starter next time. Happy cultivating.

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