Saturday, 27 March 2010

Doughy delight- Get Cultured Part 2

Bread comes and goes in my estimation. Sometimes, I think flour is just too processed to justify eating everyday, or even most days. But other times, I crave a perfectly done bit of sour, wholemeal toast with some runny marmalade sinking into it, the toast soaking it up like a sponge but staying nice and crisp around the crust. It's hard to say no to a chunk of just-out-of-the-oven pain de campagne, crust talking away, the dough still steaming when the loaf is torn open. Or an ultra thin square slice of Schwartbrotz, spread with tapenade and cucumber...
About a year ago, I really got into baking bread, because I wanted to reclaim that staple food. A shocking >80% of bread made in the UK is made by the Chorleywood process, and ultra speedy way of making bread involving relatively massive quantities of yeast, superspeed dough mixing and lots and lots of additives, some of which don't have to be specifically mentioned on the label. Scary? I thought so. That was when I started reading about sourdough, fresh yeast, oven stones, bacteria, bannetones, proving times, bench knives, was fun. I had sourdough pizza parties. I learnt so much. I sourced fresh yeast from a local delicatessen that made their own bread, and that was fun for a while. Then I got two starters on the go, a rye and then a wheat started from the rye. And I enjoyed some really tasty bread, but I wasn't eating enough to make it often, I got lazy, and my starters died. Eventually I went back to buying supermarket bread, but I didn't eat it very often. Then, a few months back, I belatedly discovered the no-knead bread phenomenon. I bought a Le Creuset pot for my birthday, and used it more for baking bread than anything else. I love no-knead bread, because I hate kneading. I'm impatient, and giving dough a good enough knead meant get the bench really messy, and I hate tidying up a messy kitchen.

If I can't persuade you to try sourdough, at least try the no-knead bread. I haven't tried it with all-wholemeal, but some folks say it works. I used unbleached stoneground white, and subbed about 10% of the flour weight for wholemeal rye. I always had perfect results. At the beginning I followed the suggestion of pre-heating the pot in the oven and then dumping in the loaf, but I changed to putting the loaf in the cold pot and into a cold oven, and giving it an extra 15 minutes. I found this approach gave me more oven spring (the bread got bigger). It's a super hassle-free way of making great bread, and this didn't tie me to making it all the time. Still, I wanted to get back to making something without baker's yeast.

Recently, I started blogging (more of less coinciding with going vegan again). So why not start up another good habit again? Especially when I was reading about all these wonderful fermented foods other bloggers were eating. It was time to get a starter going.
My previous sourdough research pointed me in the direction of one starter: rye. Rye gets going quickly, and you can use it to make a wheat sour, a spelt sour, whatever. A rye sourdough starter keeps for at least twice as long in the fridge, too, which suits my sporadic breadmaking. The timing of a all-rye sourdough bread fits perfectly with my routine, requires no knead (it can't be kneaded, the dough has to be very wet for rye, otherwise the bread is like concrete), and as I can only get wholegrain (dark) rye flour, it's not *too* processed, and you can always add lots of seeds or sprouted wheat, oat or rye grain to the loaf.

To get a rye starter going, add 25g of rye flour to 50g of water. Keep adding to the mix at the same quantities for a couple of days, and keep it somewhere warmish. Eventually it will bubble up and smell pleasantly sour. If it smells really horrible, throw it out and start again. Depending on how many days you've been adding to your sourdough, you will have a lot more than 50g, which is all you need to keep going for bread making. It's good to keep a little more anyway, just in case something happens when you're making bread that kills the starter, or you want to double a recipe or start a wheat sourdough. I also think having extra on the go is good if you're going to bake bread less frequently than say, twice a month, the bigger quantity of sourdough, the chances of the yeast population staying viable. 150g is a good amount. Building up your starter when you're not actively making bread- just add 25g of flour, and 50g of water. Simple. If you've got too much, throw out the extra, or give to a friend (I've never found anyone mad enough to want to take mine off my hands).

Ok. Now you've got your sourdough starter. Getting deeply attached to it is optional. As you will see, you don't need to feed it all the time like a pet. It's just flour and water that bacteria and yeasts have grown in. Realising this and just getting on with making bread will keep you safe from requiring sourdough bereavement counselling.

Russian Rye Bread (adapted from Andrew Whitley's Bread Matters)
Production sourdough:
50g rye sourdough starter
150g wholemeal (dark) rye flour
300g water at 40 degrees centigrade

Mix all this up into a sloppy dough, and leave to sit, covered and in a warm place, for 12-24 hours. I would do this about 9pm, and leave it until I'm home from work the next day, around 5-5:30pm, that's a rise time of 20-20.5 hours.

When I get in, I make the final dough.
440g production sourdough (the remainder is your starter for the next batch)
330g rye flour
5g sea salt
200g water at 40 degrees centigrade
(total 975g)
Optional: 1 cup of seeds and/or grains (I used sunflower and pumpkin seeds, for grains/groats, soak for at least 8 hours, or ideally let them sprout)
Mix everything together and slop the runny dough into a greased bread tin and leave to rise for between 2 and 8 hours, depending on how warm it is. If the dough slightly more than half-filled the tin, it should be at the top when it's ready to be baked. Bake for 50-60 minutes in as hot an oven as you can muster, turning it down by 20 degrees after 15 minutes. If baked as two loaves, it'll take 35-45 minutes. Apparently, it's best to leave rye sourdoughs for a full 24 hours before cutting and eating. I've never waited that long, and it's always been great!

While I still think eating bread daily is not as ideal as eating the whole grain, I think the sourdough method makes bread a far healthier option than quick rise yeasted bread. In fact, it's a completely different thing. The long fermenting process makes the grain much more digestible, and may even make gluten-containing flours tolerable by celiacs and those with gluten intolerance (Di Cagno et al, "Sourdough Bread Made From Wheat and Nontoxic Flours and Started with Selected Lactobacilli Is Tolerated in Celiac Sprue Patients, Applied and Environmental Microbiology: Vol. 70 (February 2004), pp. 1088-1095). I thought this was pretty amazing: none of the 17 celiacs in the study reacted to the wheat-containing sourdough bread.
So, sourdough bread has all the benefits of fermented foods (except there are no live bacteria to enhance your intestinal flora, they don't make it through the oven heat- eat your rye with some sauerkraut to correct this). The most significant benefit of eating sourdough bread over other breads and even over wholegrains is the increased bioavailability of minerals. Phytates in grains normally prevent the absorption of calcium, zinc and magnesium. But the long fermenting process frees the minerals from the phytates. Sprouting does the same, which is why if you do eat plenty of wholegrains and don't eat much bread (we're talking sourdough here), then you should sprout as often as you can. But bread isn't just about health- it's a wonderful comfort food. I can testify to the seedy rye being excellent toasted and slathered in some wonderfully sharp homemade grapefruit marmalade. It's also wonderful with hummus, tapenade, pickles and fermented veggies. For all these reasons, I'm going to make a sourdough loaf about once a week or two. I might also revisit the no-knead method to do a wholegrain wheat sourdough. This will mean I'll end up eating bread at maybe 2 meals a week (the rest will be scoffed by my bread-loving boyfriend), which isn't a huge amount of flour, and it's all whole grain:)

Bread resources:

Sunday, 21 March 2010

Get cultured! Part 1

"Support bacteria- they're the only culture some people have" Steven Wright

Yum. Bacteria.
There has been a huge surge of interest in so called 'friendly' bacteria of late, especially in fermented milk products but also a revival in the sourdough tradition and other foods like kefir and kombucha. Fermentation comes from the Latin ferveo, which means boiling, which is kind of self explanatory if you've ever has sourdough culture bubble out of its container and attempt to take over your kitchen, or ever made your own homebrew and woken up to a bang and found glass shards embedded in the cellar wall! I'm happy to report only the former has happened to me.

Farty Girl suggested I do a fermenting tutorial. So I got reading. And, my goodness, there is a wealth of fascinating information out there. Here's a distilled account of my skim reading:

What I've found out is that while we modern folks often view these foods as a kind of supplement to our diet, the most traditional foods of almost all cultures are cultured foods- think koji, sauerkraut, mead, tempeh, amazake, pastrami, sourdough, beer, kefir, wine, kimchi...these foods are the first examples of people taking a raw food substance, like a bag of grain or a vegetable, and working it in some way that keeps it good for far longer than the raw material, makes it more digestible and often better-tasting. I also love the way many of these traditional, cultured foods actually MAKE culture. Granny teaches her grandkids how to make umeboshi, or sourdough, or gives her daughter her kombucha culture or some rye sourdough starter. These acts strengthen ties, they forge a cultural identity. It's not surprising that the culture "soups" for these foods have names like "mother" and "daughter".

But as it turns out, granny doesn't work alone when she makes her magic foods. She has special helpers; bacteria, moulds and yeasts- depending on the food involved- in some cases it's a symbiosis of two or more, e.g yeasts and lactobacilli bacteria in the case of sourdough.

Lactobacilli are probably the most common microorganisms involved in cultured foods. They also live in our guts (I'll come back to this in a minute). They're what makes sauerkraut sauerkraut and not rotten cabbage, they make yogurt and not rotten milk. It's amazing that through cultured foods, we also work in cooperation with those ancient ancestors of ours- the bacteria get somewhere nice to live and all the food they want, and we get...well, keep reading to find out.

Aside from all the wonderful cultural bonding these foods bring about, they have lots of other lovely benefits:

As already mentioned above, fermentation makes things last longer. A jar of sauerkraut will only be getting good when a cabbage has all but rotted away. Your unleavened flatbreads baked in the morning will be tough and stale twelve hour later, but your rye sourdough loaf will make good eating for a week, and it will be even longer before it starts to mould. Although it might start to get a bit tough.

As well as making the food keep for longer, fermentation preserves the nutrients in the food- that's why Captain James Cook packed his ships with sauerkraut (and why German sailors are nicknamed krauts)-the vitamin C doesn't oxidise as the kraut is kept submerged in the brine- the lactobacilli respire anaerobically, so the sailors didn't get scurvy.

Not only does fermentation protect the nutrients in the food, it actually *increases* the bioavailability- the bacteria break down the larger molecules of proteins and lipids into simpler amino acids and fatty acids, on other words, the bacteria do some of the hard work of digestion, while letting you have the goodies- and giving your pancreas a well deserved break. In a separate post about sourdough, I'm going to go into little more detail in relation to the protein gluten. Other increases in bioavailablity happen in sourdough- the longer fermentation results in the liberation of minerals from phytates and oxalates in the grain. This is excellent news for everyone, it means you can eat wholemeal bread and enjoy the benefits of the fibre, but also get all the vitamins and minerals.

I want to separately mention the effects of fermentation on carbohydrates as I think it's especially important to IBS sufferers- the breaking down of the carbohydrates in the food render them much more digestible. Famous examples are fermented soy products and yogurt. Soy and lactose are notoriously indigestible in their raw forms, the bacteria render these foods a much lighter load on the system. You IBSers are bound to know about farting. You will know that gas is produced by the bacteria in your colon as they digest carbohydrates. The bacteria in your sauerkraut have already done that digestion before you eat the food. The gas explosion has happened outside of you, in a container. See all those bubbles in your sourdough starter, or in your jar of sauerkraut? Because of the lactobacilli, those bubbles are happening there and not in your tumtum- thank them!

As I mentioned above, lactobacilli live in our gut. By eating fermented foods, you're adding reinforcements- contributing to intestinal microflora, as it's often put.

After reading about all those wonderful benefits, I'm desperate to try lots more fermented foods. To date, I've only tried making a few different things- sourdough, yogurt, and very recently, sauerkraut. Over the next few days, I'm going to introduce you to these cultured aristocrats of the food world- some factoids, a bit of history lesson, some resources to check out and a practical how-to based on my own experiments.

For now, I leave you with two smashing resources I've found over the last few days: website by the author of the book of the same name. I fully intend to buy this book now, and also a book called Nourishing Traditions this is Thee Last Word in all things cultured. Visiting this website is in the Top 10 Things To Do Before You Die. The dude is the Culture Guru.

Nightie night Dukka readers- the weekend is over for me. It promises to be a very cultured and also very low GI week. I shall be good company, with my sugar free zen-like state of mind and snobby cultural activities:)

Friday, 19 March 2010

Prevention is better than cure...

Basically, this is why I think good nutrition (as well as other aspects of a healthy lifestyle) is so, so crucial. It just makes no sense to get yourself sick in the first place. But we can be so lazy, especially when the world we live in INVITES us to sit on our bums all day and eat at every available opportunity, not to mention drink excess alcohol, smoke, take drugs (prescription, illegal or otherwise) and get ourselves worked up. So it can be a real shocker for people to be told they need to cut out the fags or the McDonalds, or make time for exercise *shudder*. It just seems inconvenient. The cartoon is the perfect retort to those protestions of having no time to look after ourselves.
Speaking of exercise, I can't wait to get my running shoes back tomorrow- I have missed them! I have been walking everywhere this week though, and plan to keep this up and use my car only to visit my parents.

I made soup today, something I haven't done in a while, mostly because I thought it upset my bowels. Today's bowl had no such effect, so I'm pretty sure now that it was whatever bread I was eating with it. I did have some toast with mine today with big heaping piles of hummus, but I was fine. Last time I had soup, I wolfed down some refined wheat flour pancakes. Ouch. My colon is wincing as I type...
This soup was good!! I added lots of ginger as well as a little chilli and it had the *perfect* amount of heat, even if I say so myself:)

VDG Carrot and ginger soup with coriander and lemongrass
3 small onions, or 1 large
12 medium carrots, peeled and chopped
1 courgette (only because it was hanging around in the fridge)
3 finely chopped garlic cloves (they were small, and I like garlic- you could use less)
1 small green chilli, medium heat, chopped finely, seeds and all
1 big chunk of ginger (1.5 inches square), finely chopped
1 inch piece lemongrass, finely chopped
1 cup red lentils, well rinsed
1/2 T coriander seeds, ground
1 bunch fresh coriander
1 litre/4cups vegetable stock

Gently sautee the onion and carrots for 5 minutes in some oil of your choice (I used hemp). Next add the courgette, garlic, ginger, lemongrass and ground coriander seeds and cook for a further 3-4 minutes. Then add the lentils and stock, bring to an appreciable simmer, turn down the heat and simmer gently for half an hour. Throw in the coriander leaves and whizz up the soup, season to taste with salt and pepper. I think this soup could be made more decadent with coconut milk added near the end of cooking, but it was superb just as it was. I'm so happy to add soup back of my list of quick meals!

Fermenting friday

It's true that I have a bit of a thing for sensationalist news. I like to get myself all fired up and rant about the overwhelming abundance of stupidity out there. Today's find is a classic:
*deep breath* I don't think I need to say why I think this is sick.

Aaanyway. Today I am fermenting.
Pre-squishing- cabbage, salt, ginger, fennel seeds.
I stuffed it all in a jar, and there wasn't much liquid. So I squished some more, using a small jar to push it down. And...
I got more liquid out of it once it was in the jar, and it squished down quite a bit. I put a big cabbage leaf over the top, then stuck the lid on.

I've got some production rye sourdough on the go too.
Not sure what to do with the production sourdough, whether to make Borodinsky bread (with molasses, barley malt and coriander seeds) or a seeded rye, with lots of lovely buttery sunflower and pumpkin seeds. I have eight hours to make up my mind anyway! I'll have leftover production sourdough for the next loaf, so hopefully my rad (I'm keeping this mispelling of red, because it's so true, although the cabbage is more purple than red) sauerkraut will be ready to eat with some rye sourdough! According to my sister's Russian housemate, Russians have a pretty high incidence of colon cancer. This crossed my mind while I was in the kitchen this morning and for a split second I was reconsidering this sauer and sour combo. However, I reckon this is what's wrong with the Russian diet- they do eat rye bread and sauerkraut, but they eat with with a whole pile of meat. My meal will be high on the sauerkraut, with a little bread, and probably a big mixed salad on the side, which is what this friend of my sister's says is pretty low in the Russian diet-fresh vegetables. And they don't eat much fresh fruit either. So I reckon my colon is pretty safe!

I was very good at breakfast this morning- I had pinhead (steelcut) oatmeal with hummus instead of fruit or sugar! Go sugar free me!
I love these bowls- this one has a very pronounced spiral pattern that you get to see when you scoff all your oats. I got them at the Christmas Craft market at St George's Market.

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Savouring the savoury

I'm still struggling with the sugar thing, but tasty savoury dishes like the above are helping- that was collards and aduki beans with a coconut, coriander, lemongrass and ginger sauce, served with millet. I made so much of this that there were leftovers for both lunch and dinner today.
Breakfast didn't win me top marks with the sugar police (I had some sugar and chocolate soy milk in my coffee, the jam on my oatmeal was sugar free, sweetened with apple concentrate instead), but I was off work as it was Ireland's national holiday, so I don't particularly care. That said, I actually preferred my next cup of coffee, which had no sugar added, just the tiny bit left at the bottom of the cup. It was the sugar we call demerara in the UK, but I think might be called Sucanat in the US. Not sure though. Before brekkie I had intended to go for a run, but realised just as I had climbed into my Skins and running skirt that I'd left my trainers in my parent's house. So I hopped on the exercise bike and then did some weights and squats, but I wasn't really feeling it. It didn't help that my tummy was upset this morning, it's still a bit iffy after all the soy milk and coffee I drank last week.
My skin is still really dry. This is it on a good day, it often cracks and bleeds. I reckon I should just moisturise more often, I use Lush's Dream Cream. I don't think there's much more I can do diet-wise to help with this problem. It sure does itch though, and it's hell doing the dishes (my get out clause, hehe) nevermind squeezing lemons. Ouch.
This was lunch, leftover collards, beans and millet from last night, grated carrot with toasted seeds, za'atar and lime juice and a big dollop of hummus. It shouldn't have worked, with the Morrocan spices in the hummus and the coconut/ginger of the beans and collards, but it was great. After this I went for a two hour walk and found some new places, but couldn't get any further along as the path got boggy and involved crossing a stream, and E didn't have the right shoes. It was fun. It was quite cloudy and still today though, so I felt really sleepy when we got back.
Being St Patrick's day, I had to eat green for dinner, so I made courgette (zucchini) pancake. It's basically just 3-4 courgettes grated and mixed with 1 cup of gram/chickpea/besan flour and spices of your choice. I did freshly ground coriander seeds and some garlic and smoked chilli mix that I had, plus a little salt and black pepper, oh, and 1/4 cup of nooch. The moisture in the courgette is enough to bind the mix together, then I cooked it in a little hemp oil in a large skillet. I steamed some green beans and tossed them in loads of fresh ginger, lime juice, sesame seeds and toasted sesame oil. I had the last of the coconutty collards/millet/beans and carrot salad from lunch. Delish! I sneaked a soy chocolate pudding after though...but I did turn down a raspberry beer.

I'm going to do Meghan Telpner's How Low Can You Go low GI challenge starting on sunday. I'm actually slightly terrified by this, it's going to be quite hard. But I think if I do it, it will make me feel AMAZING. All that said, until today I was viewing this whole sugar problem the wrong way. I was worried it would make me put on weight more than anything. And while that's not impossible, it's not that important, not as important as my actual health. I realised today that I *am* happy with my body now, I had actually set an even lower weight target of 112lbs and got down to 114lbs. I'm back to 116 and I know that feels healthy, and realistic to maintain. I don't want to have to live off fruit until lunch every day, I need my oatmeal, and I can't do without some healthy fats, like nuts and seeds, and I certainly can't do without the odd square of dark choc. I guess I'm just scared I'll go back to what I was before. I am a little bit of a control freak, surprise surprise. Keeping sugar out of my morning meal should help keep me on an even keel.
Sometimes, though, I do still have 'fat' days, but it's not that I'm actually fat- those days are the days when my bowels are playing up, when I'm bloated and crampy, and there's nothing like being crampy and windy to make you feel ugly, fat and decidedly unsexy. I really want to go for a colonic, so I'm going to try and get one organised for next month. I'm broke at the moment but I'd love to have one before I go on my walking trip in May. For now, trying to eat a bit more low GI, no sugar in the morning and going easy on the soy and coffee, as well as eating smaller meals, and maybe more often if necessary, is the way to go.

Sunday, 14 March 2010

Phew! The sugar train has ground to a halt

Finally, I think my body has decided to tell the sugar to get lost- my cravings have finally chilled out, and the IBS bout I've had for the past week is easing. I'm surprised my skin didn't suffer for the binge more- I've been off the pill for 3 months now and I expected I'd be more vulnerable to break outs if I didn't eat properly. But I seem to have gotten away with it. The past two days I've been craving greens and grains, kale, broccoli, brussel sprouts, brown rice and oats. I want them with nuts and miso and I can take or leave dessert, but I am loving snacking on crispy sweet apples, they seem to satisfy my sweet tooth without making it go crazy.

I've been reading a lot this weekend about overeating, it seems to be all over the media at the moment. But it does seem that the problem is our inability to self-regulate, to stay centred- it's just that it's way easier to overeat than it is to undereat because food is everywhere, although plenty of people, especially women it seems, have become obsessed with self starvation and calorie counting. I wonder is it our lifestyles, do we just take too much on and that leaves us all off balance. It's got to be part of it at least. It seems to me that the major effect of this lack of balance is our poor eating habits, which has major consequences for health. It's well acknowledged that stress is a key factor in IBS and that it appears to affect more women than men (although men may just not speak to their doctor about it). Woman gets stressed, she eats stuff that don't agree with her, she gets sick, she gets more stressed. It's becoming more and more obvious to me that there's not much point obsessing about eating certain foods or amounts of foods, you have to go right back and address the stress. Plenty of times I know I reach for something soothing to put in my mouth instead of working out why I need soothing and doing something more effective about it- cutting out the source at its root. I don't really get stressed about particular things, I just rush around without wondering if it's really that important. I guess I just need to take a few seconds to BREATHE every now and again, and it can mean the difference between a happy week or two weeks of protesting bowels.
I've done things like keeping food diaries and not buying foods I'm likely to eat too much of or that I seem to have relative trouble digesting. And that's kind of a sticking plaster. This week I'm going to try eat *consciously*. To eat when I'm hungry, to eat just what I need and to avoid stimulating things or 'mood enhancing' foods or just wanting to try a bit of everything for the sake of it. One of my bad habits is wanting to do everything at once, this includes wanting to try out every recipe and food I come across. But I know this sort of behaviour doesn't help my tummy, it's not a calm approach. So I suppose the upside of money being a little tight this month due to paying for a holiday is that I can't just buy a whole pile of speciality foods. I have to eat plain- cheap season greens, and work my way through all the brown rice and oats I've accumulated. I have sugar free whole peanut butter and plenty of tasty spices to keep things interesting but I'm going to resist the urge to buy new things or make new things, even though I'd love to try HEAB's coconut butter. However, I did get a red cabbage (fairly cheap in this country and at this time of year) to turn into raw sauerkraut...mmmm.
Last night's dinner: all the greens I had (collards, sprouts, broccoli and not technically 'greens' but green edamame) with a few leftover potatoes, lots of garlic, a few sundried tomatoes and nutritional yeast:

Friday, 12 March 2010

Dukka Girl ventures out in Belfast

I've been doing some munching away from home over the last few days. And it's been good, but not outstanding. Yesterday evening, I met my mum and brother for clothes shopping (for the little bro) and then we went for an early dinner at Tedfords. I told them I was vegan, and the waiter got it straight away. When he brought bread, he told me without having to ask that it contained dairy. I was brought a simple salad, just mixed leaves and sundried tomatoes, but the tomatoes were the best I'd had in a long time. For the main, I just pointed out a few parts of the mains from the menu; I ended up with carrots in curry oil, steamed brocc and pak choi in a sesame ginger dressing and coconut rice. Dessert was caramelised banana and some nice sorbets. It was all very tasty, and light, which was good, as I wasn't in the mood for something heavier, but I doubt they would have been able to do me anything more substantial...still, it was pretty good for a restaurant that didn't even have a veggie main course option (the risotto had parmesan, which is made with animal rennet).
I made up for the lightness today with a filling burrito at lunchtime, at Boojum. I had mine with pinto beans, salsa roja, peppers and onion, and guacamole. Yum! Very filling, so I just had apple and some leftover potato for dinner.
My next stop will be Bo Tree Thai, although not any time soon as my dining partner has been struck down with a flu thing and is resting up, poor wee thing. I reckon by the time I'm done with there I'll be fed up with eating out!
I've made some headway this week with finding a nutrition course. So far I hadn't come across anything that hit all the right buttons. The one college I liked the sound of didn't run courses anywhere near me, but they're starting in my city this autumn! I've been in touch with one of the admissions people and I'm feeling pretty positive about it! So watch this space:)

Wednesday, 10 March 2010


I was so hungry after work today and my tummy was quite acidy. I think it might have been the amount of soya milk I drank today, apart from some fruit and a slice of bread and vegan sausage, so yeh, my tummy was getting mostly soy. My tummy was crying out for some soothing carbs, but I couldn't resist some spice. I made lemony carrot dahl, the recipe was in the most recent edition of The Vegan (The Vegan Society's magazine). Instead of curry powder I did a tsp each of turmeric, coriander seeds, cumin seeds and fenugreek. With the dahl, I made buckwheat crepes- just buckwheat flour, soya milk (there it is again!), a little salt and 2 tsp groundnut oil. I let the batter sit while the dahl cooked. They turned out really well, I much preferred the taste to wheat pancakes and will definitely make these again. I reckon they'd be good with something chocolatey. But then again almost everything is!
Roll up, roll up! With a little sunflower oil spread.
After a little dinner, I justified dessert and made Cranachan, which is a Scottish dessert made of raspberries, cream, honey, whisky and toasted oats. So I toasted pinhead (steelcut) oats in the oven for 20 minutes with a little demarara sugar, whipped up some Cremovita and refrosted some raspberries. I layered it all with a little whisky and some maple syrup at the very top. It was very good, although there's not much getting away from the vague synthetic-yness of the vegan cream. I got three of them for half price in Sainsbury's, and have plans for the others, but I think I can wait a good while before repeating the richness.

I'm going to have to watch the soya milk thing. I plan to give it a miss tomorrow, so by consequence, I won't drink any coffee. Probably a good thing! So it'll be oatmeal for breakfast instead of muesli and soya milk, and cherry green tea instead of coffee. I'm eating out with my mum and brother, so it will be interesting to see what I can get to eat in a restaurant that specialises in seafood.

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Getting back on track

Isn't this so scary? I realised after reading this that the odd time I've bought African food, usually green beans or squash, but now I've realised I probably shouldn't- it's almost certain that no African gets the profit...except may be the rich Ethiopian-born Saudi business man. Imagine exploiting the very country that bore you...anyway, the whole thing really made me realise just what a ethical mine field food choices can be, it's been Fairtrade Fortnight here too, and even the merits of Fairtrade have been brought into doubt by some people. Every mouthful has an effect on at least some person or animal. It makes me feel pretty guilty that my tummy problems are usually down to overeating when for most people in the world, the problem is not getting enough to eat....

Things are going well though, I have been walking to and from work and walking on my lunch break as it's really sunny and clear and I'm lapping it up while it lasts. The increased daylight has done wonders for my mood, which in turn has made my tummy feel better. Still eating too much sugar, but I've haven't binged in the last few days, so I hope I'm getting things under control.
Dinner tonight was some tasty olive, caper and tomato sauce on collard greens and a little pasta, although I'd have been happy with the collards alone; I rolled up the leaves perpendicular to the stalk (after I cut it out if it was very thick) so the strips were really long, like collard spaghetti!!

I have started drinking more coffee though...nothing obsessive, two large mugs a day, tops. Still, I will probably get bored in a couple of weeks and cut way back, and then in a few weeks or months I'll be drinking it again like it's going out of fashion. I used my electric handblender to foam up my soya milk, instead of buying a dedicated milk foamer. It totally worked! In fact it was a bit too foamy...

The coolest thing I've read in the blog world today was Heather Eats Almond Butter's Coconut Butter. I've never seen coconut butter for sale here, so I think this would be fun to try making, not to mention tasty to eat! Mm, I like coconut. I made a collard and noodle coconut soup at the weekend, which I topped off with some tofu. It had loooads of ginger, chilli and lemongrass in it. Basically I just chopped up those with some garlic and onion, sauteed over a low heat until soft, then stirred in 1 tablespoon of crushed coriander seeds and some turmeric. In went the collards and the cooked noodles, then 2 cups of water and a can of coconut milk. I would have put some fresh coriander but I couldn't find it in the shop.

I really should eat out of a different bowl every now and again!

Saturday, 6 March 2010

Happy tummy dinner!

After two weeks of craziness, my tummy was rattled, but I'm still feeling fragile, so don't want to go to hard on myself. Therefore dinner needs to be healing but comforting. And for me that means greens. And sprouts are my favourite. And the comfort? Those dry black olives. I think they're fabulous with brussel sprouts, I suppose they make a very decent substitute for anchovies. I had my sprouts and olives with some green beans and a small amount of wholewheat pasta (maybe a 1/2 cup cooked) just to bump up the brain-soothing tryptophan without stressing my guts. I flavoured it all with plenty of garlic, nutritional yeast and some sundried tomatoes and a little oregano. My tummy has not rebelled, if it's going to get bad, it usually starts by the time I've finished eating. So hooray! Dessert was black tea with a fair dose of soya milk and a little Starbucks gingerbread syrup. Quite like chai, with the emphasis more on sweet than on spicy. This has put me in a good enough mood to meet up with some friends later this evening. Normally I try to avoid going out to pubs in this country if I'm not drinking because it's just so engrained in the whole experience. It's hard to get a decent alcohol free drink that's not some overly sugary unethically produced fizz. That said, I think I might kick back a little and stretch to a ginger beer. Enjoy the rest of the weekend:) And special thanks to Farty Girl for getting me to post again!

Two steps foward one step back

I was going so well for the last 2-3 months, but things have taken a backward slide in the last two weeks. I've been eating more chocolate, bicuits and sugar in my coffee than I had been, and I've sat down to some big plates of dinner a couple of times too. All of which have contributed to havoc in the bowel department and my mood is pretty crap too. Still, I am surprised that my skin has stayed clear, although all those cakes have found their way onto my hips, and I've put a kilo back on (I think, it's hard to gauge weight gain when you're constipated too...).
As bad an idea it was for my tummy, I made killer vegan burgers last night. I cooked 1 cup red lentils and maybe 1/4 cup oatmeal chucked in, and whizzed up some turnip, kale, onion, celery and garlic in the food processor until finely chopped. I mixed everything up with 1/2 cup of gram flour and 1/2 cup of rolled oats, 1/3 cup nutritional yeast, 1 tsp each dried rosemary and oregano and 2 tsp of smoked paprika as well as two tbsp of tomato paste. I shaped the mix into patties and dipped them in gram flour before frying and finishing in the oven. There was loads of mix left, so I shaped it all into burgers and froze them for another time. I had a rather upset stomach all evening and most of today, so I ate very little; a bit of oatmeal, an apple, licorice tea, a few oatcakes and I had a coffee too...hehe. Feeling a little easier now, but I know if I eat anything substantial I'll be set off again. I'm quite hungry now, but can't decide what to eat.
I think the problem is that the sweetie stuff I've been eating has made me overeat, and when I eat anything high fibre, it just sits in my gut which has been made lazy by the slow-moving low fibre sugariness. I probably need to just keep the oatmeal and apple until I'm right as rain again, almost like clearing the decks!
No photos of food as I haven't really been taking time over any preparation. Normal blog service will resume soon, promise! I guess I'm still recovering from the loss of my aunt.

On a happier note, I booked my summer holiday! I'm going walking in the Lot Valley, just north of Toulouse. I'm going in mid-May, so not that long to wait! I think the break and all that walking will do me the world of good. France can be a bit of a pain for vegans, further complicated by having to walk with all my belongings, so I have to pack light. I'm up for the challenge though- tasty, healthy, portable vegan food. Now it's time to make dinner before I take a bite out of my computer! Then it's off out to the pub, but it'll be ginger beer and water for me. Unless I can think of a healthy mocktail:)