Friday, 15 April 2016

Top bread recipes - quick and easy, delicous and healthy

If you enjoy a bit of baking, I would highly recommend trying your hand at baking your own bread. not only is it highly therapeutic, and makes your whole house smell wonderful, it is impressive to guests and family, and is better than the bread you buy in supermarkets packed with additives, stabilising agents and chemicals to make it last longer.

Currently bread seems to be a bit of a pariah within what is popular among the dieting community, however you can add in seeds, nuts, dried fruit, milk and cheese to your mix to give it some extra nutritional benefits, but a plain mix alone is a great source of carbohydrates, protein and fibre.

To bake bread, a common misconception is that it is difficult, take hours and you need lots of equipment. All I have at home is a cake tin, weighing scales and a mixing bowl, and I have pulled together some tried and tested recipes for you to try that are easy, need minimal equipment and are pretty fail safe! Here we go...

Malted and seeded bread

I used Doves Organic malted flour in this recipe, and it is so quick to make and full of flavour, I don't think I will ever make another savoury loaf.

400grams malted flour
100grams strong white bread flour
250ml water
10grams dried active yeast
1 teaspoon sugar
3 tablespoons oil
2 teaspoons of salt

1. Add the flours to your mixing bowl, placing salt on one side of the bowl. Mix together the sugar, water and yeast and cover with a tea towel and leave for five minutes. If the yeast is still working well, you should see froth on top of the water. Add to the mixing bowl with the oil and bring together into a dough.

2. Work the dough on a lightly floured surface, kneading by hand for around ten minutes. Pop the dough into a lightly oiled bowl, and cover it with a damp tea towel, allowing the dough to double in size. Don't leave in a drafty or cool place or it will take longer, equally don't leave in too warm of a place or you won't get such a good flavour. It should take around an hour at room temperature.

3. Turn the dough out onto a lightly oiled surface and knead for a further five minutes by hand and shape into your desired shape. If you aren't overly confident to bake it in a free forming shape, pop it in a loaf tin or cake tin so it will develop a nice shape. Cover again and leave to double in size.

4. Pop in a preheated oven at 180 degrees celcius for 35 minutes or until a hollow sound is heard when tapping the bottom. Turn out on a wire rack to cool. Delicious!

Sweet Fruit Buns

These are slightly adapted from a recipe from BBC, great if you bake them in muffin trays that are lightly oiled or in a loaf for breakfasts. Absolutely delicious, and very convenient if you are grabbing one to go!


625g/1.3lb strong white flour, plus extra for dusting
1 tsp salt
2 tsp ground mixed spice
2 tsp ground cinnamon
45g/1.5 oz unsalted butter, cut into cubes, plus extra for greasing
85g/3oz sugar
1 lemon, zest only
1½ tsp fast-action yeast
1 free-range egg
275ml/10fl oz tepid milk
125g/4oz mixed dried fruit - I sued sultanas and mixed peel

1. For the buns, sieve the flour, salt and ground mixed spice into a large mixing bowl, then rub in the butter using your fingertips. Make a well in the centre of the mixture, then add the sugar and lemon zest and yeast.

2. Beat the egg and add to the flour with the tepid milk. Mix together to a form a soft, pliable dough.

3. Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured work surface. Carefully work the mixed dried fruit into the dough until well combined. Knead lightly for 5 minutes, or until smooth and elastic.

4. Grease a large, warm mixing bowl with butter. Shape the dough into a ball and place it into the prepared bowl, then cover with a clean tea towel and set aside in a warm place for one hour to prove.

5. Turn out the proved dough onto a lightly floured work surface and knock back the dough. Shape it into a ball again and return it to the bowl, then cover again with the tea towel and set aside for a further 30 minutes to rise.

6. Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and divide it into 12 equal pieces. Roll each piece into a ball, then flatten slightly into a bun shape using the palms of your hands. Cover the buns again with the tea towel and set aside to rest for 5-10 minutes.

7. Grease a baking tray with butter and transfer the buns to the tray. Wrap the tray with the buns on it loosely in greaseproof paper, then place inside a large polythene bag. Tie the end of the bag tightly so that no air can get in and set aside in a warm place for a further 40 minutes to rise.

8. Preheat the oven to 240C/475F/Gas 8 and bake for 15-20 minutes.

Red Onion and Rosemary Foccacia

This recipe is fabulous for picnics and warmer weather, and you can swop the red onion and rosemary for dried apricots and stilton, or mozzarella and pancetta.

1 batch white bread dough
5 tbsp olive oil
2 large red onion, sliced
handful rosemary sprigs
1 tsp sea salt flakes

Red onion & rosemary focaccia

1. Make the basic dough (link to a good recipe for a basic dough here, adding 2 tbsp olive oil and only a pinch of salt. While the dough is rising, cook onions in 1 tbsp olive oil for 5 mins until soft, then set aside.

2. When the dough has risen, knock it back and stretch it to fit an oiled Swiss roll tin about 25 x 35cm. Leave the dough to prove for about 20 mins.

3. Heat oven to 200C/fan 180C/gas 6. Spread the onions over the dough and scatter with the rosemary. Press your fingers into the dough to make dimples, drizzle the remaining oil over and scatter over the salt, then bake for 30 mins until golden. Leave to cool, then serve cut or torn into squares.
Enjoy! Please don't hesitate to ask for any other bread recipes, tear and share loaves, or free from loaves or spelt loaves - anything you can think of!

Saturday, 2 January 2016

Healthy fats - sources, benefits and beware....

Low fat and non-fat food options often come with a hidden 'added extra' - extra salt, sweeteners and a whole lot of sugar. Just take a look below:

The hidden calories in your meals

Fats are not the enemy, they are essential to life, and many, such as omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids, cannot be synthesised by the human body and must be eaten in food for the body to function properly. As these fatty acids are not saturated with hydrogen atoms (and contain more than one double bond between the atoms) they are called 'polyunsaturated fatty acids ' (PUFAs). Most PUFAs are of plant and fatty fish origin.

Health benefits of essential fatty acids:

Both linoleic (omega-6) and linolenic acids (omega-3) are building blocks of brain lipids. Therefore, they are absolutely essential for normal foetal and infant brain as well as body growth, and development of visual acuity.

These fats along with other fat-soluble vitamins like vitamin-A are required by the body for maintenance of healthy skin and mucus membranes.

Fats with good omega-6 to omega-3 profile has been proven to reduce LDL or bad cholesterol and rise HDL or good-cholesterol levels; thus, helps to prevent coronary heart disease (CHD) and stroke episodes.

Omega-3 fats reduce pro-inflammatory prostaglandins and leukotrienes in the body. Their deficiency may result in co-morbid conditions like dyslexia (difficulty in reading), dysgraphia (difficulty in writing) and attention deficit-hyperactivity disease (ADHD) in children.

Sources of essential fats

  • Olive oil
  • Soybean oil
  • Legumes/pulses
  • Wide variety of nuts and seeds
  • Spinach/kale and many dark green leafy vegetables
  • Fruits; like Kiwifruit
  • Organic hen's eggs
  • Fish
However, taking all this wonderful good news into account, we must still be mindful of portions sizes, as they still contain high amounts of calories and will cause weight gain if eaten excessively. So here is a guide to portion sizes and calorie content for you to keep in mind when snacking:

Nuts - One handful of plain nuts provides around 150-170 kcal dependant on the nuts
Seeds - One handful provides around 120-140 kcal dependant on the seed
Oily fish - portion size around 100g can provide around 120-180 kcal depnedant on how it's cooked - grill, steam or poach wherever possible
Eggs - 1 large egg can provide around 70-90 kcal depending on whether it is boiled, poached, or fried
Oils - one tablespoon can provide 120 kcal, it is pure fat, so be mindful how much you use in your cooking


Breakfast - Peanut Butter Smoothie
You can substitute peanut butter with any of the different nut butter now available in the shops. They give your smoothie a fantastic smooth and rich taste, keep you fuller for longer and aid absorption of fat soluble vitamins found in your fruits in your smoothie.

1 banana
Two tablespoons of berries - I use frozen to keep costs down
200ml skimmed milk
1 tablespoons of peanut butter

Pop all the ingredients into a blender and whizz up to make a smooth delicous breakfast smoothie - containing healthy fats, carbhoydrates and two portions of your five a day!

Lunch - Chargrilled Tuna with oregano oil, peas and beans

For the oregano oil
1 small bunch of fresh oregano or marjoram, leaves picked
Juice of 1 lemon
olive oil

For the tuna, beans and peas
4 handfuls of podded peas
2 handfuls of podded broad beans
80 ml best-quality extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper
1 small bunch of fresh mint, leaves picked
Juice of 1 lemon
4 x 200g tuna steaks, from sustainable sources, ask your fishmonger, cut 1cm thick

To make your oregano oil, pound the oregano with a good pinch of sea salt in a pestle and mortar until you have a paste. Add the lemon juice and 4 tablespoons of olive oil and stir until you have a good drizzling consistency.

Bring a large pan of water to the boil, add your peas and cook for 3 to 4 minutes, then remove them with a slotted spoon or sieve. Add the broad beans to the pan and cook for 3 to 4 minutes, depending on their size. Drain and leave to cool, then pinch the skins off any big beans (you can leave the skin on any small or medium ones).

To dress the peas and beans you want the same balance of acid and oil as you would have in a salad dressing. So, put the olive oil and a good pinch of salt and pepper into a large bowl. Chop up most of the mint and throw it in, add the peas and beans and mix everything around. Add lemon juice to taste. You can serve the dressed peas and beans hot or at room temperature.

Heat a griddle pan or barbecue until hot, season your tuna steaks with salt and pepper and pat with some of the oregano oil. Place in the pan and sear for 1 to 2 minutes on each side. Personally, I like to keep my tuna a little pink in the middle as this tastes much nicer, but if you’re going to cook it through please don’t nuke it.

Tear the tuna into 2 or 3 pieces and toss in a large bowl with the rest of the oregano oil. This will give you a lovely combination of flavours. Serve the fish immediately with the peas and broad beans scattered with the rest of the mint leaves.

Dinner - Salmon and Soya Bean Salad

1 large omega-3 rich egg
200g frozen soya beans, defrosted
zest and juice 1 lemon
2 tbsp flax seed oil (we used granoVita)
250g pouch Puy lentils
small bunch spring onions, sliced

2 poached salmon fillets, skin removed

Salmon & soya bean salad

Put the egg in a pan, cover with cold water and bring to the boil. Cook for 4 mins (or 8 for hard-boiled), adding soya beans to the pan for the final minute, then drain and run under cold water to cool. Shell and cut egg into 6 wedges, then set aside.

Mix the lemon juice and zest with the oil, season, then stir through the soya beans, lentils and spring onions.

Divide between 2 plates, then gently break the salmon into large flakes and put on top of the lentils along with the egg. Try it with seeded brown bread.