On the menu – health food kick

Friday

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I can not get enough of Minimalist Baker’s recipes at the moment; I’m not vegan or gluten free but the recipes are perfectly adaptable if you don’t mind some dairy or gluten in your food and anything that increases my wholegrain, fruit and vegetable intake is fine by me. I thought I’d give the Minimalist Baker ‘easiest wholegrain seeded bread’ a try. It has a very long rise; two hours on the countertop, followed by two hours in the fridge and that was even before the shaping and another 45 minute rise  (I was a little sceptical about the four hour initial rise, I’m used to maybe just 90 minutes on the countertop but I was going to trust the recipe). The length of time to make it, is, on one side, a good thing, as the hands on time is very short, so it was very nice going about my daily business, knowing that I had something nice going on in my kitchen but it did mean I had to wait for a day where I wasn’t going to be out of the house all day and for a day where I had room in my small fridge (basically the day before my internet food shop delivery). I also had to adapt the recipe a bit as it features two brands of flour (gluten containing – this isn’t a gluten free recipe) that we don’t have here in the UK and I couldn’t find anything that close to what I thought the two flours were, so I just used strong wholemeal bread flour for both. I also had trouble finding flax seed, I did find it in the end, in the allergy section of the supermarket but it was so eye-wateringly expensive, so I opted for a mixed seed mix, which had, as well as the sunflower seeds required for the recipe, pumpkin, sesame and linseed.

Making it turned out to be pretty easy and it smelt absolutely gorgeous when it eventually hit the oven. It cooked well, in about 30 minutes (and my oven is a bit unreliable when baking). I went all ‘Paul Hollywood’ and I was tapping the base (a nice hollow sound) and when it had cooled a little and I cut into it, I was prodding the bread with my finger and I was very pleased to see the bread spring back, I think Paul would have approved.

And the important bit, taste, it was gorgeous, both me and the kids loved it, so I will definitely be making it again (maybe a Friday before the food shop comes tradition). I was particularly impressed that the kids liked it; we are a white bread household because, although I like wholemeal bread, everyone else turns their noses up at it, I still couldn’t get K to try some but it was a definite result with the kids. I think I may experiment a bit with the seed mix too, there’s a brand of (white) seeded bread that me and the kids like, that has poppy seeds mixed in with the dough and I think that would work really well with this recipe too. (Also, I think this would probably make lovely toast, if it stays around long enough that is!)

Saturday

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Hands up, I’ll admit it, I have a soft spot for TV science guys who get all geekily excited about whatever they’re talking about; one such TV science guy is James Wong, who has a book coming out soon, which I am rather excited about. I am even more excited about it now, as I downloaded a free taster on Amazon and it’s brilliant. There are so many recipes in it that I want to try and I love the science-y bit about apples.

The first recipe I’ve tried is the 5-minute blueberry compote, it’s really simple, just five minutes in the microwave (if you’re using frozen blueberries, as I did) and you get this luscious goodness come out. Just having this in the fridge now (it lasts in the fridge up to a week, apparently), is making me instantly want to have lots of porridge and plain yoghurt, just so I can eat it all up. The sampler also includes further recipes where you can use the compote and one of them was the second recipe I tried, Blueberry & Chilli Cheese Toastie.

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When I first read the recipe, I was all “yeah right, that sounds disgusting”, but I can be quite trusting of geeky science guys, so I thought about it and thought, actually, it might be worth a go. I used my sandwich toaster because I was also making more conventional toasties for the rest of the family but the actual recipe calls for two slices of sourdough and your frying pan. I would have loved to have tried this with the bread I made on Friday but sadly there wasn’t enough left (it almost made me want to go and make some more but I couldn’t wait six hours!). The sandwich is basically a few rings of red onion, cheddar cheese, spinach (I used some baby kale, as that’s what I had) and the blueberry compote, which has been mixed with some chilli flakes and balsamic vinegar. Now my sandwich toaster is meant to be a deep-fill one but this was pushing it. Anyway, the result was delicious; the blueberry – chilli compote sort of overwhelmed everything (not complaining, I was only eating the kale as it’s good for you, I’m not a big fan) and it gave the toastie quite a strange ‘meaty’ vibe, which is definitely strange as there was no meat in it. This may have something to do with the only chilli flakes I could find being chipotle chilli flakes, so as well at the heat there was a delicious smokiness, which made the sandwich even nicer. I will definitely make again.

Sunday

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I fancied creamy but healthyish pasta, so I thought I’d give this recipe for butternut squash alfredo a go. And it was okay, S and K liked it, I thought it was a little bit bland but it was perfectly edible. If I were to make it again, I would add some more herbs or maybe some cheese (which of course would move the recipe further away from ‘healthy’). A word of warning though, if you’re making this recipe, the end bit calls for a cup of milk but I was already looking at the sauce thinking “this isn’t sauce, this is soup”, so I only added a couple of splashes of milk and I cooked it, on a relatively high heat, for a further four minutes to reduce the sauce down a bit, after that it was about okay.

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