July 31, 2011

Yellow & Green + Broccoli tartlets

Somehow I have managed to convince myself that spring is just around the corner - the days are just a bit longer, warmer and brighter, the Australian native plants are starting to bloom and things are looking greener. Yes, technically we still have a full month of 'winter' ahead, but I cannot help but feel inspired by bright colours, the sun and the warm weather.

Even my inspiration board is looking brighter - out with the rustic brown, in with the bright yellow!

And whilst in the mood of yellow and green I made these broccoli tartlets. I have been eating more broccoli this season than probably ever before and I am showing no signs of getting sick of it! These tartlets combine a crunchy crust with a soft and smooth broccoli filling - something I've been having with just about anything lately. These are quick and easy to make and a perfect treat to enjoy whilst day-dreaming of spring.

Broccoli tartlets

(Recipe adapted from Fresh Japanese)

50g rolled oats
20g puffed brown rice
1 tablespoon honey
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
80g whole spelt flour
3 tablespoons water


400g broccoli, cooked until tender
1 lime, juiced
2 tablespoons olive oil
freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt

1. Preheat oven to 180C and lightly oil 2 individual tart tins (or one bigger about 20cm across). 

2. Put the rolled oats and puffed rice in a plastic bag and use a rolling pin to crush them.

3. Place the oats, puffed rice and spelt flour in a bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together the honey, olive oil and water. Combine this mixture with the dry ingredients and use your hands to bring the dough together. Set aside for 10 minutes.

4. Press the dough into the prepared tart tins and bake for about 15 minutes or until golden brown. Leave to cool on a wire rack.

5. For the filling, put all the ingredients in a food processor and purée into a smooth paste. Top the crust with the filling and vegetables of your choice. Serve immediately.

July 29, 2011

Quinoa, oats and spelt cookies

Quinoa? Check. Oats? Check. Spelt? Check! What more could you ask for? Extra-virgin coconut oil instead of butter and organic rapadura sugar instead of refined white sugar? You can tick those boxes too 'cos these cookies have it all. Now, I know I haven't been posting many cookie recipes in this blog in the past, but I just couldn't wait to share this recipe with you. These are sweet and crunchy, but wholesome and guilt-free. I've got my weekend treat sorted!

These will keep in an air-tight container for 2 to 3 days, if they'll last you that long. You could pass them on as a home-made gift too, but in that case I'd probably make a double batch - they are just too addictive. 

 Quinoa, oats and spelt cookies
(makes about 20)
(recipe inspired by Ross Dobson)

150g quinoa flakes
60g rolled oats
125g whole spelt flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
100g extra-virgin coconut oil (not liquid), in room temperature
150g rapadura sugar

1. Preheat oven to 180C and line a baking tray with baking paper.

2. Place the quinoa flakes and rolled oats in a food processor and blitz until the quite fine. 

3. Place the quinoa, oats, spelt flour, baking powder and baking soda in a bowl and mix to combine. Set aside.

4. Beat the coconut oil and sugar in a separate bowl until light and fluffy (about 5 minutes). Add the dry ingredients into the mixture and gently knead the dough incorporating little bit of cold water in if necessary. Use just enough water for the dough to come together. I find this easiest to do by watering my hands, then kneading the dough.

5. Take small portions of the dough and shape them into disks. Place on a baking tray leaving a bit of space between each cookie.

6. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until firm to touch and golden brown. You may need to gently flip them over half way through to ensure even baking. 

7. Cool on a wire rack, then store in an air-tight container.

July 27, 2011

Lentils with daikon and orange

It was one of those hectic days when my to-do list was longer than my arm, yet my mind was full of new ideas I wanted to add on to that list. I was trying to multi-task, but of course I ended up doing a little bit of everything, but not a whole lot of anything. If there is one thing I don't compromise even during the busiest times, however, it's my eating habits.

This lentil salad is one of my favourite quick lunches and seconds beautifully as a side dish for fish, tofu or meat. I love the tangy dressing that the lentils suck up and the oranges bring a beautiful seasonal twist on this meal. Perfectly quick yet satisfying meal for the busy of days!

Lentils with daikon and orange
(Recipe inspired by Marie Claire's 'Spicy')
(serves 2-3)

1 cup (French) lentils
1 medium sized daikon (white radish), peeled and thinly sliced
2 oranges
1/2 lemon
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon pomegranate balsamic vinegar
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard powder
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper

1. Rinse the lentils. Drain and place in a saucepan with 4 cups of water. Bring to boil, then let simmer for 20-30 minutes or until just tender. Drain and place the lentils in a large mixing bowl. 

2. In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil, juice and zest of one orange and half a lemon, pomegranate balsamic (or normal balsamic vinegar with pomegranate molasses) and mustard powder. Season the dressing with a pinch of salt and freshly ground black pepper and pour all the dressing on to the lentils. Mix thoroughly to coat.

3. Add in the daikon slices. Peel and cut the orange into segments and add them in as well. Mix everything together and serve.

July 25, 2011

Quick & Simple - Rustic Rye Muffins

How was your weekend? We went for long walks enjoying the sun that finally peeked through the clouds after so many days of rain, we also attended a birthday party on Saturday and spent some time with family and friends. A dark cloud came in the way of those horrific news from Norway and I'm sure you all share the same feeling of shock than we did when watching the news. My thoughts are with all Norwegians during these difficult times.

Mondays always seem to be busy as I'm full of ideas and energy for the coming week. This morning I was craving some fresh bread, but didn't have the patience to knead and wait for the dough to rise. When this happens, there is nothing quicker and easier than savoury muffins to save the moment. These rustic rye muffins tick every box, including the taste that reminds me of Finnish rye bread. For those wanting fresh home-made bread in no time at all, savoury muffins are always a good option.

Rustic Rye Muffins
(makes 12)
(recipe adapted from Bob's Red Mill)

130g dark rye flour
130g whole spelt flour
2 tablespoons rapadura sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt (I use Maldon)
2 teaspoons whole caraway seeds
1 teaspoon ground bitter orange*
250ml milk
1 large, free-range egg
1/4 cup olive oil

* if you can't find ground bitter orange, use orange peel (fresh or ground) instead.

1. Preheat oven to 180C and prepare a 12 cup muffin tin.

2. Mix all dry ingredients together in a bowl. 

3. Whisk together the milk, egg and olive oil.

4. Stir the milk mixture into the dry ingredients.

5. Spoon the batter into the muffin tins.

6. Bake for 20 minutes. Cool on a wire rack before serving.

July 23, 2011

Baked Pearl Barley Porridge

I am starting to realise that some of my all-time favourite recipes, the ones that I take for granted and make over and over again, are the ones that I haven't actually shared here on the blog before. Just recently there were the spelt horns, the whipped cranberry porridge, and the apple tart, to name a few - and now this - baked pearl barley porridge. This is a dish I've been making very frequently for well over 10 years, the whole time I've been living on my own and before that it was a treat my mum would make for us as a light meal. 

I couldn't think of a more comforting dish on a rainy winter's day. You could serve this with sweet berry soup, rhubarb soup or just fresh berries. We are spoilt here in Australia to have fresh strawberries available in the midst of winter ;-)

Baked Pearl Barley Porridge
(serves 2)

90g pearl barley
750ml milk (low-fat is fine)
1 teaspoon salt
butter, for greasing

1. Preheat the oven to 180C.

2. Grease a shallow-ish oven proof dish (capacity of over 1 litre). Pour in the barley, salt and milk. 

3. Bake (without stirring) for 1 1/2 - 2 hours or until the top is golden and all the liquid has soaked up. Cool slightly before serving.

July 22, 2011

Rainy days - Yoghurt Spelt Bread

Once it starts to rain here in Sydney, it rains and rains and rains ... and rains. On the first day the rain is alright, kinda nice when you wake up in your warm bed and hear the rain drops drumming against the window. You go back to sleep thinking it's ok to sleep a bit longer because it's such a lousy weather.

On the second day you check the weather forecast thinking - 'how much longer is this rain going to continue for?', and you go for a morning run despite the rain, get absolutely soaked, but think 'man, it was worth it!'

Third day... 'I'm so over the rain - will you stop already?!'

And so I've painted, cleaned, re-decorated, sewed, knitted, twitted, planned a bathroom makeover, planned a whole home makeover, browsed every magazine I have, bookmarked a million pages for DIY projects, and spent a bit of time in the kitchen. This quick yoghurt spelt bread is best savoured with a big cup of tea on a rainy day like this.

Yoghurt Spelt Bread
(Recipe adapted from Kodin Kuvalehti)

500 g pot-set natural yoghurt (low-fat is fine)
1 tablespoon treacle or dark syrup
1 teaspoon salt (I use Maldon)
11g dry yeast
400-500 g whole spelt flour (organic, biodynamic)
50 g brown flaxseed meal
100 g pepitas + a little extra for topping 
50 ml extra-virgin olive oil

1. Place the yoghurt in a large bowl and warm it in the microwave until about 42C (feels warm to touch). Stir in the treacle and the salt. Mix the dry yeast in to a small amount of flour and stir the mixture in as well.

2. Stir in the flaxseed meal and the pepitas. Knead in enough flour for the dough to unstick your hand and feel soft. Lastly knead in the oil. Leave the dough to rise, covered, until doubled in size.

3. Knead the risen dough on a lightly floured surface to remove the air pockets. Flatten the dough with a rolling pin to fit a 30 cm x 40 cm oven tray (lined with a baking paper). Place the dough on the tray, cover with a tea towel and leave to rise for a further 30-40 minutes. Brush the bread with water and sprinkle the extra pepitas on top.

4. Preheat the oven to 180C. 

5. Bake the bread for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on a wire rack before serving.

July 20, 2011

Rosemary roasted almonds

Are you a snacker or do you prefer sticking to three meals a day? I gotta say I would love to be more of the latter, but I definitely fall into the snack-person category. I am always hungry, and whether it's due to the fact that I get quite a bit of exercise or that I prefer eating smaller meals, I love to snack. Anything from raw veggies to nuts, seeds and dried fruit is on top of my snacking list, but lately, with the cool weather hitting Sydney, I've found comfort in warmer snacks.

That is exactly why this particular treat is my favourite - warm roasted almonds dressed in delicious rosemary and olive oil. It makes a perfect antipasti too, and you could easily use walnuts or any of your favourite nuts for this. Try adding garlic and dried chilli flakes in the mix as well, they are fabulous in this! And the ultimate snack alongside with this one? Roasted rosemary. You gotta try it - it's simply delicious!

Rosemary roasted almonds
(Recipe adapted from Melissa Kelly)

1 cup raw almonds
few sprigs of fresh rosemary
 2 tablespoons fresh rosemary, finely chopped, extra
2 tablespoons good extra-virgin olive oil
pinch of sea salt
freshly ground black pepper

1. Preheat the oven to 180C.

2. Place the almonds on a roasting tray with a few sprigs of rosemary and roast for 10-15 minutes or until the nuts are browned. Be careful not to burn them!

3. Place the nuts in a bowl with the finely chopped rosemary and olive oil. Season with salt and pepper and toss well to coat. Serve with the roasted rosemary as a quick snack or as antipasti.

July 18, 2011

Fresh Farmer's Market Salad

"What were you going to do with those?", a lady asked me when I picked up a bunch of beautiful radishes at the farmer's markets on the weekend. "Not sure. Throw them in a salad, maybe?", I replied. And as it happened I also picked up tiny beets, parsnips, broccoli, carrots, and some other seasonal veggies - purely because I just couldn't resist their freshness and gorgeous colours. I didn't have a recipe in mind, I just stashed the veggies in my shopping bag feeling quite content about my purchases.

Some things really are just best eaten raw, don't you think? I was playing with the idea of roasting the radishes, but when I peeled and sliced them, I realised their beautiful colour and flavour would be wasted if I was going to roast the living daylights out of them. Instead I went about marinating them in verjuice and lime juice and they needn't any other seasoning. Pared with other finely sliced veggies they made a beautifully sharp and fresh salad. 

Fresh Farmer's Market Salad
(serves 2-4)

bunch of radishes
1 apple
1/2 parsnip
1 carrot
1/2 red onion
1/4 cup natural raisins*
small piece of fresh ginger
1/4 cup verjuice
1 lime

* look for the ones that have no added sunflower oil.

1. Thinly slice the radishes, apple, parsnip and carrot and place in a bowl. Pour half of the verjuice and the juice of half a lime on top and mix to coat. Leave to marinade for half an hour.

2. Soak the raisins and the finely chopped ginger in the remaining verjuice and lime juice for 15 minutes. 

3. Squeeze out the liquid and add the raisins and the ginger with the other ingredients. Save the soaking liquid.

4. Finely slice the onion and soak it in the left-over juice for 10 minutes. Squeeze out the liquid and add the onion in to the salad. Discard the juice. (Soaking the onion will get rid of the extra acidity.) Serve the salad immediately or leave in the fridge for another half an hour for the flavours to develop.

July 16, 2011

Spelt pulla - Finnish cardamom buns

There are some classic recipes one should not try to modernise. Pulla, or Finnish bun, probably falls into this category, and there is no doubt some people who are orthodox about this sweet, cardamom spiced treat, would not consider my version to be called 'pulla' because it is lacking some essential ingredients. All Finns are supposed to learn to make pulla from a very young age and most of us grow up in a household where fresh pulla is baked at least every fortnight.

I have taken the classic recipe and made it my own. I've replaced plain wheat flour with whole spelt and used olive oil instead of butter. Does it work? Yes. Does it taste like pulla? Yes! These are soft and sweet, just like they are supposed to be, and they have a distinct cardamom flavour. Cardamom is the most quintessential flavour in the dough, so everything else in this recipe, give or take, you can experiment with, just please don't leave cardamom out!

 Spelt pulla
(makes 20-25)

500ml warm milk (42C)
22g dry yeast
300g whole spelt flour

1 large free-range egg
80g raw caster sugar
1 tablespoon ground cardamom
1 teaspoon salt
600-800g whole spelt flour, extra
150ml olive oil

1 large free-range egg, extra, for brushing
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon, for topping
2 tablespoons rapadura sugar, for topping

1. For the starter, mix the dry yeast with 100 grams of the flour, then stir the mixture into the warm milk. Add in the remaining 200 grams of flour and stir well to combine. Cover the bowl with a tea towel and leave in a warm place for 15-20 minutes or until the starter is bubbly.

2. Stir in the egg, sugar, cardamom and salt and start kneading in the flour. Once the dough feels soft and starts unsticking your hand, knead in the olive oil, followed by a bit more flour. Leave the dough to rest (in a bowl, covered with a tea towel) for 20-30 minutes.

3. Knead the dough lightly on a floured surface. Divide the dough into equal portions (about 20), then roll the portions into balls. Place the balls on two baking trays lined with baking paper. Cover the trays with tea towels and leave to rise for a further 20 minutes.

4. Preheat the oven to 180C. 

5. Brush the buns with the egg and sprinkle each bun with a cinnamon and sugar mixture. Bake for 15 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on a wire rack covered with tea towels.Serve warm with a glass of cold milk.

PS. Here is my mum's original recipe for the Finnish cinnamon rolls

July 13, 2011

Whipped Cranberry Porridge

It's the quick and simple treats that attract me the most. Those that you can whip up in a matter of a few minutes, using the ingredients you already have at hand. I admire those who can spend ages decorating a cake or making delectable desserts that require much patience and skills. I have neither, so I've always thought of myself as more of a rustic, casual, country-cook. Well I am a country-girl at heart and I think it'll always show in my cooking.

Whipped lingonberry porridge is one of the first things I always ask my mum to make when I go back home to Finland. I have loved this treat for as long as I can remember and it's one of the dishes I most miss from home. Along with rye bread, quark, wild berries and squeaky cheese, whipped lingonberry porridge is definitely on the top 5 of my favourite Finnish foods.

Now, there is an obvious lack of frozen lingonberries here in Sydney - so far I haven't found any. The second best option for those wanting to make any lingonberry dishes is, in my opinion, to use frozen cranberries that tend to be more widely available. I wouldn't use lingonberry cordial to make this as they are too sugary and won't give the same taste nor colour.

This whipped cranberry porridge is just as soft, fluffy and sour as it is supposed to be and served with a dash of milk it's the best I can get here in Australia.

 Whipped Cranberry Porridge
(serves 2)

250g frozen cranberries
750ml water
65g semolina
1 tablespoon rapadura sugar

1. Place the cranberries and water into a saucepan and bring the mixture to boil. Let simmer for 20-30 minutes, then drain through a sieve preserving the liquid and saving the berry mash for a later use. 

2. Return the cranberry juice into the saucepan and add enough water to make up to 750 ml. Bring the liquid to boil then gradually sprinkle in the semolina, whisking continuously. 

3. Simmer the porridge for 15-20 minutes, whisking every now and then and adding a dash of water if necessary. The porridge can be quite thick. Add the sugar in at the last stage, stir it in and take the saucepan off the heat.

4. Place the saucepan in a sink filled with cold water. Leave to cool, then beat with electric beaters until light and fluffy. Serve the porridge at room temperature or cold with a dash of milk.

July 12, 2011

Pomegranate Glögg

It was another sunny winter weekend here in Sydney. We spent Sunday in the northern parts of the town, lunching and visiting my partner's parents. This is my favourite part of Sydney and I never get tired of the beautiful beaches and the scenery there. I could have spent the whole day outside, taking photos and enjoying the sunny weather. I certainly enjoy this temperature much more than the heat in summer!

A glögg is a perfect hot drink to have on a cool winter's day. I've chosen rather untraditional ingredient of pomegranate, but you could happily use frozen lingonberry, cranberry or black currants instead. The spices give this drink a warm hum without making it too strong, and a bit of rapadura sugar makes the glögg sweet as it should be.

Pomegranate Glögg
(serves 2)

250g frozen pomegranate seeds
2 cups water
1 cinnamon stick
knob of fresh ginger
5-7 cardamom pods
3-5 cloves
1 star anise
1 tablespoon rapadura sugar

1. Place all ingredients in a saucepan, bring to boil and let simmer for 20 minutes. 
2. Drain the mixture through a sieve into 2 mugs. Serve hot.

July 10, 2011

Finnish Sour Rye Bread

As with the Finnish apple tart I posted recently, I have no excuse for not posting a recipe for the classic Finnish sour rye bread prior to this. I always thought it was too difficult to make sour rye bread here in Australia, I wouldn't have the right type of rye flour to work with, the temperature wouldn't be right for the starter... wait, those are the excuses for not posting this recipe earlier.

When my partner and I visited Finland in December last year, my mum, granny and I baked two types of Finnish bread at granny's house. She is a 95 year old lady who is still so strong and independent, such an inspiration! During the bread baking day she was in charge of heating up her giant brick oven and baking the loaves. In the photos below you can see her cleaning the ashes with a traditional 'uuniluuta' (oven brush), and you can also see her giant timber dough bowl which is a good 100 years old, and has been used countless times.

Granny's bread has always been the most delicious bread I know and she has kept the whole family in supply of her bread for as long as I can remember. Bread baking is a family tradition, and I will definitely do my best to keep it alive.

There really is something immensely satisfying about baking bread with yeast and even more so when you make the bread with a starter. It's a long process, but there is just so much satisfaction when you finally get to take those loaves out of the oven and bite into a warm bread.  And although this recipe is not granny's, I think she'd be pretty happy with the outcome. It's a gorgeously dense bread, a real rye bread and I couldn't be happier to have a taste of Finland in my own kitchen!

Sour Rye Bread*
(makes 2-3 loaves)
(Recipe from 'Kotiruoka' book)


3-4 slices of wholegrain rye bread or 6-7 slices of Finn crisps**
1 litre warm (25C) water
1 litre (about 400g) wholegrain (dark) rye flour

* you need to start this recipe 2 days before baking. 

** 'hapankorppu' (sour rye crisp bread) is available all across Sydney (and my guess is, in Australia and worldwide) and is sold as "Finn Crisp". Look for bread that contains over 90% wholegrain rye.


25 g fresh yeast***
100ml warm water
2 teaspoons salt
approximately 1 1/2 litres (about 600g) wholegrain (dark) rye flour + extra for kneading

*** in Sydney, I buy fresh yeast from the Fourth Village providore in Mosman

1. To make the starter, pour the warm water in a large mixing bowl. Break in the Finn crisps (or bread slices) and mix in the rye flour. Stir well to combine. Cover the bowl and leave for 2 days or until the starter is clearly bubbling and smells fresh but 'sour'. For this to happen, stir the starter every now and then (a couple of times each day), and keep the bowl covered with tea towels in steady room temperature.

2. After two days, 'revitalise' the starter by adding a cupful of flour (from the whole amount of flour needed for the dough) and stirring it through. After that, leave the starter, covered, for a couple of more hours.

3. Dissolve the fresh yeast in 100 ml of warm water and add the mixture into the starter. Add in the salt, then knead the flour into the dough bit by bit until the dough starts to unstick your hand. 

4. At this point, take a piece of the dough to use as a starter for next time. Wrap the piece in plastic wrap and freeze it or store it in the fridge if you are using it again in the near future. Leave the rest of the dough to rise, covered, until doubled in size. This can take a good couple of hours or more, depending on the conditions.

5. Once the dough has risen, divide the dough into 2-3 portions and knead into loaves. You can use loaf tins or make free-form loaves, both will work just as fine. Try not to use too much rye flour, however, as this can toughen the bread. Place the loaves on a baking tray lined with baking paper, rub a bit of rye flour on each loaf, and cover the tray with a tea towel. Leave the loaves to rise for a further 30-40 minutes.

6. Preheat the oven to 200C. 

7. Prick the loaves before baking. Bake the bread in preheated oven for 45-60 minutes or until the base of the bread sound 'hollow' when tapped with fingers. Leave the loaves to cool (covered with a tea towel) on a wire rack. This bread keeps well in room temperature, but if you want to freeze it, you should only do so the following day. Serve with good butter and enjoy! 

July 08, 2011

Persimmon and Walnut Bread

It's almost the weekend! What do you have planned? The weather here in Sydney is set to be sunny - I just love winter! On days like this I love spending time outdoors, going for long walks, taking photos and just admiring the beautiful views. I usually spend some time working on projects I have going on as well - crafty things, props and so on. Needless to say I love visiting markets on Saturday mornings too.

I also love to bake a little treat for the weekend afternoon tea, and this persimmon and walnut bread is a real treat! I love how it's not too sweet, it has a lovely hum from all the spices, and it's so moist. You could perfectly toast this for a special breakfast as well. Have a lovely weekend!

Persimmon and Walnut Bread
(Recipe adapted from Maggie Beer's 'Maggie's Harvest')

2 large free-range eggs
100g rapadura sugar
2 tablespoons melted unsalted butter
300g whole spelt flour
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground clove
small pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
2 teaspoons baking soda
120g walnuts, roughly chopped
60g dried apricots, finely chopped
1 1/2 cups persimmon pulp (from 3 large persimmons)
1 teaspoon natural vanilla extract
1/2 cup milk

1. Preheat the oven to 180C. Grease a large loaf tin and set the tin on a deep sided baking tray.

2. In a large bowl whisk the eggs, sugar and butter. Sieve in the flour, spices and baking soda and mix thoroughly to combine.

3. Add the rest of the ingredients and stir well to combine.

4. Pour the mixture into the prepared loaf tin. Pour enough warm water into the tray to reach half way through the loaf tin. Bake the bread for about 1 1/4 hours. Take the loaf out of the tray and leave to cool on wire rack before turning onto the rack.

July 06, 2011

Sultana and apple bread + a few tips on baking with yeast

Of all the recipes, I find the bread recipes the most difficult to write. Why? Because it is extremely hard to give exact measurements for how much flour you might need for your loaf of bread. Even if you are using the exact same flour as I am, you may need to use more or less depending on variety of things, including the weather. So, I thought I'd sum just a few of my tips and 'rules of thumb' for bread baking as I know it. The list is no way comprehensive, but might be helpful if you are just starting to bake with yeast. I am planning to make Finnish rye bread with a starter method very soon, so I will give more tips on how to bake bread with a starter later on.

But before I get onto the tips, here's the recipe for a tasty sultana and apple bread I baked the other day. I normally prefer having my savoury bread without dried fruit, but sultanas work really well in this and it is certainly not too sweet, not even with the addition of grated apple. This freezes well and is perfect toasted.

Sultana and apple bread
(makes 2 loaves)

500 ml water
17g dry yeast
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons treacle/dark syrup
30g brown or golden flaxseed meal
65g sultanas, coarsely chopped
1 apple (100g), coarsely grated
600-700g whole spelt flour (organic, biodynamic) or 
half-half white spelt and whole spelt
50ml olive oil

1. Warm the water until about 42C. Add the yeast in a small amount of flour and mix it in. Cover the bowl with a cling wrap and leave for about 15 minutes or until bubbly and frothy.

2. Add the salt, syrup, flaxseed meal, sultanas and apple into the mixture. Start mixing in the flour, adjusting the amount to your need. You may need more/less. Add the oil at the last stages of kneading and knead the dough until smooth and soft.

3. Cut the dough in half and bake two loaves straight onto a baking sheet covered with baking paper. Cover the loaves with a clean tea towel and leave to rise. You know the dough has risen enough, when it feels soft to touch and if you press it with your finger, it'll leave a dimple on to the dough. 

4. Preheat the oven to 180C whilst the dough is rising. 

5. Bake the loaves for 40 minutes or until they feel light and the bottom sounds 'hollow' when tapped.

6. Cool on a wire rack, covered with a tea towel, before serving.

Now, some tips...

1) Remember to have all the ingredients in room temperature before starting to bake.

2) Whether you are using fresh or dry yeast, you need to remember to use different temperature liquid. For fresh yeast the liquid should not be warmer than 40C (ideally it should be about 37C). For dry yeast, however, you want the liquid to be slightly warmer, about 42C, but not warmer than 50C. There is no need to take a thermometer out for this, however, just judge the temperature by dipping your finger in to the liquid.

3) If you are using fresh yeast, you can break the yeast straight into the liquid and mix it in until it has fully dissolved. Dry yeast needs to be mixed with a small amount of flour before mixing it into the liquid.

4) The ratio between liquid and yeast is normally about 1 litre per 50 grams of fresh yeast or about 20 grams of dry yeast. Again, this may vary depending on what you are baking and what flour you are using.

5) Adding a tablespoon of sugar, honey or syrup won't make the bread sweet, but it will active the yeast and make the bread rise quicker.

6) Try not to use too much flour as this can make the bread hard. A looser dough may be more challenging to work with, but will result in a much softer bread. You'll learn to judge the amount of flour needed as you bake more.

7) Be patient with your dough. Let it rise until doubled in size. If it is a cold weather, you can place the bowl with the dough in a sink filled with warm water. Cover the bowl with cling wrap or a clean tea towel. Often a recipe requires you to let the dough rise first in the bowl, then after kneading the dough and shaping it in to loaves or rolls, letting it rise again before baking. A well risen dough feels soft to touch and if you press it with your finger it should leave a little dimple on to the dough.

8) All ovens are different, so keep your eye on the bread and test if it is done by tapping the bottom of the bread. It should feel hollow and the bread should feel fairly light.

9) Covering the freshly baked bread with a tea towel will make the bread softer. If you prefer a crunchy crust, leave the bread to cool uncovered.

10) Last, but not least, don't be afraid to use yeast, it is much easier to work with than you may think!

July 04, 2011

Sweet roasted vegetables with dried fruit

Roasted vegetables must be one of the the most reliable crowd-pleasers during autumn and winter months. Because they are so easy to adapt, I think they make an ideal meal for a family of picky eaters, or a couple like us where the other one prefers all veggies and the other one more meat on the dinner plate. Nonetheless, roasted veggies on their own, or served with creamy feta, grated hard-boiled egg or toasted nuts, is certainly a wholesome meal for a vegetarian, but also makes a lovely side dish for fish or meat.

This particular recipe has a little twist to the original favourite. The seasonal veggies get an added boost from some dried fruit and a killer dressing that combines orange and lemon juice with raw honey, fresh ginger and verjuice. Speaking of which, I've been totally addicted to verjuice since our trip to Barossa Valley in South Australia, and it certainly makes wonders to this dish as well!

 Sweet roasted vegetables with dried fruit
(Recipe inspired by Terry Walters' Clean Start)

1 medium sized sweet potato, peeled
1 large parsnip, peeled
2 carrots, peeled
2 onions, peeled
small handful (5-6) prunes, pitted
small handful dried wild Persian figs

juice of 1 orange
juice and zest of 1/2 lemon
2 tablespoons verjuice
1 heaped tablespoon raw honey
knob of fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped
1 teaspoon sea salt
small pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
1 teaspoon potato starch

1. Preheat the oven to 200C. 

2. Cut the sweet potato, parsnip and carrots into 2 centimetre chunks. Cut the onion into wedges and place all vegetables into a large oven dish.

3. Toss in the prunes and the figs. 

4. For the dressing, whisk the orange juice, lemon juice and peel, verjuice, honey and finely chopped ginger in jug. Season the dressing with sea salt and nutmeg and whisk in the potato starch. Pour the smooth dressing evenly on to the vegetables.

5. Roast the vegetables in the oven for about 40-45 minutes tossing them in between to coat with dressing. Cover the dish with a lid (or foil) for the first 20 minutes to avoid burning. Serve with creamy feta, toasted nuts or grated hard-boiled egg as a main meal or on its own as a side dish.